Freshman starts zine club to address social issues

by Natalie Busch / Beacon Staff • February 18, 2016

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A lecture on body image, institutional racism, or abuse might not be accessible to everyone. But put the same ideas into a zine, and the message could reach a wider audience.

With that concept in mind, Sara Barber, a freshman writing, literature, and publishing major, created a club that focuses on making zines that promote social justice.

A zine, short for magazine and pronounced “zeen,” is a small handmade publication that is usually photocopied, stapled together, and then distributed.

Barber said she discovered the medium in high school and found it to be a great outlet for discussing problems in society.

“A zine is a more personal way to understand social issues,” Barber said. “It’s a more handcrafted and hands-on way to talk about an issue rather than a [standard] print publication.”

Barber said she was interested in starting an official club last semester, but it wasn’t until December that she found the motivation to turn her idea into reality. The catalyst was a chance conversation with a Boston University student outside of Little Building after she asked to borrow a cigarette from Barber.

Barber said she told the student about zines, and although she had no prior knowledge of the medium, she offered Barber advice on how to start an organization. Barber said they still keep in touch through text messaging.

“I was just telling her about them and she’s just so intuitive and strategic,” Barber said. “It was just so interesting to hear a step-by-step guide, basically. She literally broke it down into steps for me. She gave me the motivation to commit and make sure that it becomes a successful club.”

The club meets weekly in room L151, in the basement of the Max Mutchnick Campus Center. According to Barber, there were around 15 attendees at the first meeting and 10 at the second.

Selah Pomeranitz, a freshman journalism major, said he joined the club because he has wanted to make zines since discovering them in high school. He said he particularly enjoys the do-it-yourself nature of the format. 

“I like the general aesthetic to it,” Pomeranitz said. “I love the idea that it’s just people creating a new message from bits and pieces of things around them. I think it’s really interesting.”

Barber said the club will release issues on a monthly basis. Each zine will focus on a different subject and feature one page from each member alongside existing art that pertains to the topic at hand. The first edition, which will be published this Sunday, is about anxiety.

The group brainstorms ideas and plans pages during meetings. At the first meeting, students created pages dedicated to topics like the gender binary, body image, and global warming. 

“I’m really looking forward to [discussing] white feminism versus intersectional feminism and the differences between the two,” Barber said. “Someone also had a really cool idea to profile international students and do issues on their home country and how it differs from here.”

Barber said she finds creativity in cheap zines from flea markets. She also cites the Papercut Zine Library in Somerville as a personal influence. 

“It’s just this small room on this nowhere street and the walls are just lined with zines that they’ve collected,” Barber said. “It was so inspiring to be there, and I actually want to take everyone in the club on a field trip there and just have us all sit down and read zines for hours.”

In the short term, Barber said she has two important goals.

“One is getting a group of people together who care about social issues and who care about how our society functions and who want to understand it more thoroughly,” Barber said. “The other goal is that other people are able to read about these issues in a more accessible way and in a crafty fun thing to look at that is also important to read.”

In the long term, Barber said she hopes to incorporate the concept of zines into her future work.

“What I want to do when I get out of Emerson, dream end goal, is to run my own magazine that advocates social justice through art and writing,” Barber said.

For now, meetings are open to anyone, but Barber said she hopes to have a set staff in the future. Barber also said she is working towards securing recognition from the Student Government Association for the club.

“If we get this up and running by next October, we could be included in the Boston Zine Fest and have a panel there and talk about what we’re doing,” Barber said. “That would just be incredible.”