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Perceptions of Feminist Collectives on Feminist-based Zine Production

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Zines are defined as a “do it yourself (DIY) sort of publication”. These are “self-published works” that are produced independently and gather minimal profit. Likewise, given that zines are deemed as a “grassroots, underground movement”, zines cover “niche” topics that are usually overlooked when producing mainstream publications, challenging prevailing beliefs of the status quo, and addressing the various issues experienced in everyday life. In this regard, zines serve as an approachable channel for “self-expression” that is not limited by what media confines as standards.

According to Olivia Wright, zines can serve as a “tool” that women may utilize to share and explain the social inequalities brought about by female oppression, as well as other themes and discourse that revolve around the idea of feminism. While zine makers present their own denotations of feminism, its meaning constantly changes. Regardless, zines provide a space for these women to express themselves through writing and creating beyond the conventional restrictions of media.

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Alyana Cabral, founder of a local feminist collective known as Kababae Mong Tao, describes how zines are effective in carrying out feminist ideas, connoting that zines are “very tangible” and “very timeless” as well as referring to it as a “tool of education” for its readers. In this regard, zines can translate information that is easily digested by its readers, resulting in the popularity of the medium as a form of empowerment to the feminist movement. Claire Villacorta, co-founder of Grrrl Gang Manila, and a co-publisher of numerous feminist zines within Metro Manila likewise identifies the production of zines as “free-flowing”, provided that it can be “a combination of print-outs, handwriting, drawings and collage”. With this in mind, zines offer a sense of “creator-control” that permits multiple forms of expressions in different media platforms.

In this sense, the researchers aim to explore the media platform of the zine as a medium that integrates feminism through a production project that will take the form of a documentary film. This documentary aims to educate audiences about what a feminist-based zine is, how the idea of a feminist zine is conceptualized and carried out (i.e. how feminist zines are created, published, and distributed), and how issues concerning feminist ideologies of local feminist collectives are advocated and addressed through the said medium of feminist-based zines. The documentary will likewise incorporate interviews from members of local feminist collectives and feminist press, as they explain the inner workings of zine making and their feelings and perceptions on the production of feminist-based zines. Moreover, the documentary will visually showcase the creative processes that are involved in feminist zine production — from the brainstorming of ideas, creating the visual package (e.g. the layout and graphics), the printing, to the distribution of the zines.

The interpretive research question that will guide the research’s production project is: What are the Perceptions of Local Feminist Collectives on Feminist-based Zine Production?

Gianne Encarnacion, a Philippine feminist zine maker, points out qualities that define the notion of “conservatism” within Filipino Families. Gianne mentions that the Philippine society “dictates” certain “standards” that women must follow in terms of “clothing, talking, and acting” in a particular way. This standard thereby “appropriates” women into this conservative Filipino culture. Alyana Cabral notes that there is a sense of “toxicity” found within Filipino communities — provided that individuals are sexually harassed and otherwise have their opinions overlooked because of their gender. Alyanna adds that being in that “toxic space” urges these victims of harassment and discrimination to take action in order to enforce a “safer space” for them to open discussion about the struggles of being a feminist, of being a woman, and of being a Filipina born into a considerably “conventional” society.

With that being said, the documentary film aims to enlighten its viewers on how zine makers formulate their own interpretations of feminism and how they incorporate these individual meanings into feminist-based zines to formulate a space to open dialogue for feminists and women alike. The primary motivation in producing the said documentary is rooted from the aspiration to garner an in-depth understanding about the different definitions of feminism from local feminist collective members and how an independent, artistic medium such as the zine can likewise defy conventions and augment the feminist movement forward by allowing an artistic space to address concepts of feminism. This documentary film can aid in understanding the conditions of feminism within a Philippine context from the viewpoint of local feminist collectives, press, and zine makers, as well as the intricacies and technicalities that come into creating, producing, and distributing a feminist-based zine.

In order to carry out the production project effectively, participant observation will be conducted within feminist zine festivals, feminist presses producing zines, and feminist zine libraries and archives. Furthermore, the researchers will conduct more interviews with resource people who specialize in the field of feminist zine creation, production, and distribution (in order to feature the processes of zine production), as well as additional feminist zine creators, feminist artists, and all other movers and shakers of the feminist zine culture in the Philippines.

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