A decade characterized by third-wave feminism and the Riot grrrl movement managed to fit into a 36-inch-by-12-inch cardboard box.
This box, full of cultural and historical significance, sits in the Women’s and Gender Studies Library in Himes Hall. Last week, new WGS Director Jacqueline Bach unveiled the gold inside this treasure chest, which came in the form of feminist and queer comics and “zines,” or self-published magazines.
“The purpose behind people writing zines isn’t necessarily to sell or make money,” Bach said. “It’s just a personal need to express oneself through print.”
In the past, zines were typically homemade or run off on copier machines. Today, most of them are presented as online blogs and cater to readers’ specific interests.
“It’s not quite the same as what you can experience holding one in your hand,” Bach said.
She said when the WGS program started at the University in 1991, faculty members who belonged to the organization donated books to the library they thought students should read. From there, WGS accumulated a small collection.
Erin Rice, one of the first department graduates from the University, donated the materials to the library. Rice started building her collection when she was a student, obtaining feminist and queer journals, articles and stories from a newsstand in downtown Baton Rouge.
Rice continued collecting for 10 years before she decided to pack her belongings and give it all away. She said she did it as a way to give back to the University.
WGS graduate assistant Ray Siebenkittel analyzed the contents of the publications and said he found meaning and solidarity in them today.
The publications range from one of the first all-female-staffed comics from the ’70s to queer resource guides from the ’90s.
The all-female-staffed comic, Wimmen’s Comix, started in 1972. Siebenkittel said a lot of women started there because it was the only place where they could get a foot in the door.
“It sort of acted as a space for women artists to build a foundation and then springboard,” Siebenkittel said.
Siebenkittel also cited another comic, Real Girl, as something that engaged in national conversations still relevant today.
“The fact that there aren’t many women in comics and video games [today] ... it’s the same discussion that they were having in 1997,” he said.
Another of the box’s contents, Deneuve, was an essential resource guide for gay youth in the 1990s. Siebenkittel said it worked on a national scale for people whose only queer resources could be found in the particular zine.
Bach said the zines and comics give readers a snapshot of specific communities around the time the WGS program started in the early ’90s.
“Being able to put [the issues] into comics might reach audiences,” Bach said.
She said students will soon be able to check out the new publications through the Middleton Library system. Until they are marked and catalogued, students can go in the WGS library in Himes Hall and read them there.
“These aren’t necessarily documents that mainstream libraries will seek out,” Siebenkittel said. “A lot of these didn’t last long ... but the important part is the message they had and the meaning they had for people.”