From riot grrrl activism to Black Lives Matter discourse, zines exist as a place to vent progressive and sometimes anarchistic thoughts and desires away from the critique of mainstream media. They are safe spaces, if you will.
After creating my own zine, Cyberrriot, it began to hit me that zine making was sometimes my safe space, yet at other times a source of great worry; the deadlines, my ever fluctuating skill and decreasing creative energy, it became something I needed to recover from. So I wonder, how do I find a safe space to recover from these anxieties, when the zine itself was supposed to act as a safe space in the first place?
With these thoughts in mind, I talked to a few zinesters about their safe spaces, and how it all affects their zine making work. Their worries are relatable to any writer and designer, and I hope their answers give you the peace of mind that they gave me.
I spoke firstly to Kathryn Schultz, one of the editors of Pop Culture Puke, about what she considered a safe space. Pop Culture Puke is a zine made by and for mostly young women, and is a colourful space to share thought provoking art and writing. “A safe space, in my opinion, should be inclusive to all who share its values,” she stated, “Not be harmful to anyone, and encourage people to explore their feelings and sense of self. ”
“I would say my work itself is my safe space,” Kathryn continued, “Our site is a welcoming platform for people to express their thoughts and emotions through art and writing, which is extremely important to me.” But what happens when zine making stops being fun and cathartic, and starts to feel too much like work?
“When the friendships morph into co-worker relationships, it can definitely crunch any fun and spontaneity out of the experience,” Aorta VI’s Pj Kneisel told me. Aorta VI is a zine collective in Redondo Beach, California that presents surreal illustrations, and macabre comics. I asked him how one would recover from this work pressure, and his answer reflects my own; seeking comfort from his current partner.
“I find myself leaning more towards my relationship with [my partner] Alana as my source of rejuvenation… Before, when the zine stuff was my main focus and I was single, it was my source of inspiration and creativity. I yearned for that close-knit camaraderie almost to a fault.”
Ess Elle of Assume Nothing however, feels that safe spaces are not as clean cut as they sound: “I’m of the belief that safe spaces are more of a vision than a reality.” she states, “I usually say ‘safer spaces’ indicating that no space can be guaranteed as safe but that the space still exists with intention behind it.” Assume Nothing is a striking zine made out of Philadelphia that focuses on topics of STIs, polyamory, and illness & slut shaming. Since STIs are so stigmatized in our society, I’m not surprised that there is no true safe space for these survivors.
So what really is a safe space; is it a physical place? An area or concept that is just a little less crappy than other places? For me personally, I’ve realized my safe space is a person, and that the idea of safe and safer spaces is a lot more complicated than I first thought.
Words: Stephanie Watson
Image: Eilidh Morris