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Foreward . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 All Bodies are Good Bodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Feminist Publication and Zines Throught History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Beyond Bey Playlist . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 An Interview with the Safarani Sisters . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 Wear What Makes You Feel Good . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 Pink is for Girls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 Fitting the Societal Mold . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6 Let Girls Be Ugly . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 0 Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 Special Thanks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 3 3

vagenius(2018) by maria rozalia finna


I created Middle Man as a cohesive and compact way to assemble a collection of feminist content using various forms of media. The name is derived from a digital comic (seen on the previous page) by Romanian-Hungarian artist Maria Rozalia Finna (@ouvra on Instagram) featuring a young woman contemplating her love for a man. In the comic, the young woman’s personified vagina tells her she’s “using the idea of him to fall in love with [her]self again,” followed by advice to “cut out the middle man!” Thus, I hope to use this zine as a new kind of “middle man,” a body of work that can enable women to fall in love with themselves. “But Laurennn,” you ask, “why are you using the word “man” in the title of a feminist zine?” I personally believe the name “Middle Man” captures a sense of irony and androgyny which, rather than taking away from the zine’s feminist content only adds more layers and depth to its potential. With this title let it be known: Middle Man is bold, Middle Man is contradictory, Middle Man does not limit itself. 5

This zine serves as a platform for me to create and publish my own content in the form of both art and writing based on my own experiences as well as commenting on pop culture through a feminist lens. I chose to use a zine as a medium to discuss this movement as it is able to capture the many dierent sides and arguments of the feminist movement in an accessible and creative format. I take a lot of inspiration from the Riot Grrrl movement in particular, and their act of using zines as a form of confrontation and rebellion. However, where Riot Grrrl zines are typically characterized by a DIY aesthetic, my goal with Middle Man is to combine this classic cutand-paste visual style with that of many contemporary digital zines like Cherry and Crybaby Zine which, in addition to activism, put a slightly stronger emphasis on appealing to aesthetic, entertainment, and artistic qualities. For this reason, you’ll find that Middle Man contains a mix of everything from opinion-based writing to digital art to interviews to photography, and more. In this way, I hope to capture various aspects of the feminist movement through the use of a myriad of media so that not only would this work delve deeper into the feminist movement, but it would also take part in the movement itself.


Originating as a medium for science fiction enthusiasts to produce and publish fan discourse, zines (then known as “fanzines”) eventually developed into a medium for expressing opinions, ideas, and experiences not represented in mainstream media. In this way, zines serve as alternative, independent media source, and a space for people to self-publish anything by a community for a community. Closely and deeply related to the efforts of the feminist movement to communicate information across communities, zines, in one form or another, served an important role in the feminist movement for over 150 years. Originating from prints, posters, and scrapbooks, feminist publications later evolved into pamphlets, which later became self-identified as zines, today still existing in both print and digital forms. Feminist zines as we know them today find their origin in a feminist “tradition of informal publishing” [2]. Visual feminist publication dates back to the late 19th century, where feminist groups as well as individuals expessed ideas through the use of posters and scrapbooking. Before there were the internet and digital platforms for spreading feminist discourse and connecting to


like-minded individuals, word had to be spread though good ol’ traditional, actually tangible media. That meant feminist groups and individuals had to spread feminist discourse through posters and scrapbooks to challenge news coverage that did not represent the interests of women. Naturally, simple scrapbooks eventually developed into more complete texts, and feminist pamplets and mimeographs became an extremely effective way for writers to express and spread feminist discourse throughout the 1960s and 70s, creating a platform for widely circulated feminist texts. In the 1990s, feminist pamphlets emerged again in a rebirth, labelling themselves distinctly as zines, serving as the backbone to the Riot Grrrl movement. It would be impossible to describe the bond between zines and the feminist movement without talking about the Riot Grrrl movement, and impossible to describe the Riot Grrrl movement without talking about zines -- the two are inextricable. The Riot Grrrl movement began as a response to the lack of female inclusion in the punk rock scene of the 90s, when female musicians and fans of the genre were ridiculed, sexually harassed, and not taken seriously [4]. Where the punk rock scene held its roots in an underground subculture of creating “fanzines” to discuss punk music and review bands, Riot Grrrls aimed to fire back at exclusive “beergutboyrock” through the creation of their own zines -- ones geared towards confronting sexism in their everyday lives. Riot Grrrl zines served as the “blogs” before blogs, spreading everything from articles to art to mani-



festos. “Jigsaw,� and “Bikini Kill,� started by the bands we know today as “Bratmobile� and “Bikini Kill� respectively, were just two of the countless Riot Grrrl zines being self-published during the movement’s heyday, which characterized themselves by their punk reclamation of femininity. Thus, Riot Grrrl zines carried their own “do-


it-yourself” aesthetic and “emphasized passion and creativity over skill and talent,” highlighting the way that feminist zines centered on grassroots politics and autonomous cultural production. After the Riot Grrrl movement (which arguably never ended) zines continue to circulate the streets and internet pathways of today, rebirthing themselves in a digital format. Replacing the DIY, cut-and-paste aesthetic for more contemporary image production, digital layout, and even some fairly high production value, their main function still remains -- to represent feminist opinions of individuals and groups not portrayed by mainstream media. These publications serve as a way to escape highly corporatized and commodified feminism, as well as a platform for critiquing past methods and messages of the fminist movement itself. In this way, both zines from the Riot Grrrl movement and the zines of today are distinctly connected to third and fourth wave feminism [1]. Where these publications are not created by groups of women banding together as empowered groups, they instead are created by individuals expressing themselves artistically and individually as a political strategy. Today, zines allow women to critique both pop culture and experiences in their own lives though a feminist lens, serving as a sort of “feminist pedagogy” for women and girls around the world in an accessible and relevant fashion. With zines only on the rise in today’s digital age, it is clear that the deep-seated history of feminist self-publication and zine-making is one that will only continue to prosper with time.


1. gimme brains - bratmobile 2. hand solo - marika hackman 3. attitude - leikeli47 4. i don’t want it at all - kim petras 5. the man you aim to be - poppy ajudha 6. i am her - shea diamond 7. mama - raveena 8. likes - yuna 9. bling bling - junglepussy 10. generation sick - girl friday

find the playlist here

5:30am in the basement (2018)

Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani are sister artists based out of Boston, MA. Originally from Iran, the two studied Painting at the University of Tehran before enrolling at Northeastern University to pursue their masters degrees in Studio Art in 2014. Combining traditional media such as painting and drawing with 3-dimensional media and moving image, the Safarani Sisters cover themes of identity, pain, and self-reection in their work, stemming from their experiences as Iranian women and immigrants to the United States. I had the opportunity to ask the Safarani Sisters more about their work, future exhibits, and advice for Northeastern students.


Give some background on your story and work. We studied painting at Tehran university. While we were studying painting, we were active in theatre, performance and music. As artists we always wanted to move and explore new things in our lives and we always want to grow and speak to the world with our works. So, we decided to travel and come to US in 2014. The program that we studied at Northeastern helped us and taught us so much -- to use all the skills we had learned in the past and bring a new aspect to our works, taking more video classes, performances and installations. We always get inspired from our very simple and very complex experiences in our life, and our ideas for our works are driven from those experiences.

You’ve said in the past that the most beautiful way to show a woman is in pain. Can you elaborate on that and talk about the relationship between pain and beauty in your work? It has been said that the beauty, joy and happiness are more comprehensible when there is inconcinnity, drama, and sadness. There are many concepts in the world that an artist can work on, but there are sometimes moments in your life that are too dramatic and painful. If an artist can derive beauty out of drama, that shows a high level of skill and ability in an artist. Painting pain beautifully feels like a catharsis and reveal from that pain in the most elegant way.


Your work covers themes that a lot of women -- particularly women of color and immigrants can relate to. In what ways does your work reect your experiences as women and immigrants? As we mentioned above our works are driven from our personal experiences and this makes our works to be related to who we actually are. So sometimes we don’t see it a choice to separate our works from our identity, as Iranian and immigrant women. There are always challenges for every immigrant, one of the most challenging is to be able to adjust yourself with the society and the culture and find your way to succeed.

late afternoon gaze 1 (2018)


How has moving to the US affected your work, and what were the differences between your art education in Iran and in Boston? Being graduated from Tehran University means that as a painter you have learned all the skills to bring a 3-D image into 2-D. We have been thought very academic and we learned all the aesthetic lessons and theories there. We learned we are not allowed to critique someone’s works without being experienced in the field, have read many books, and have full knowledge of it. We have been introduced and learned to work with new media, but it is all after they make sure you know all the basics in your field. Here, to be a successful artist you are not supposed to be a perfect drawer or painter. The important thing is what your work is all about. In general, artists here take their social responsibilities as a very important part of their careers, and activist artists are known as one of the very successful group of artists. In fact, as an artist you incumbent upon yourself to impact the world, make changes, and bring awareness of social, political, gender, and womens issues to the audience with your work. But in our opinion and with our knowledge,


awake (2018)

in Iran this kind of approach to art is less. The artworks themselves are more important than the message of the artworks, so the focus of art schools is just on the art itself. What advice would give to aspiring female artists here at Northeastern? Follow your passion and be ambitious about it! Think BIG! And do not let the hard situations stop you from working. Find beauty in those situations. A very important lesson we ourselves learned from our immigration journey is that you should never stop for things to come to you. Stand up and find your way. Go to galleries, talk to professionals, and make a lot of good connections. Remember that nowadays success is not only about the quality of your works, it is also about the people who see and appreciate your work -- your audience. So try to find the best audience for your work and get out in the art world and make changes. I know that in the past couple of years you’ve expanded beyond just painting and started using mediums such as video or performance. Your work has also been exhibited all over the world from Boston to Iran to London to China. What’s next for you and for your work? Currently, we are working for our next solo show Opening in February in Palm Beach Florida at Adelson Gallery. And we are always working and exploring new things and ideas for our next projects. Hopefully we can finish a short movie that we are working on right now. We are also collaborating with a group of musicians from New England Conservatory who are making a quartet for our next project which is a “film-painting.” The location and the dates are still to be determined. 17

There is no time for wearing clothes that do not make you feel good, or at the very least, make you feel comfortable. When it came to asking my friends Autumn and Chrissy to prepare for this photoshoot, I told them simply to wear something that made them feel good. However, that proposition ended up not being so simple. I was surprised to be met with questions and confusion, the assumption being that the clothes that made them feel good were “obviously” something that I wouldn’t want to photograph.


All too often, we are told by popular and mainstream media that women who are not welldressed are not worth our attention, and that women who do not “look beautiful” do not have value. After all, how often do you successful women in movies wearing sweatpants? (That is, if you see a successful woman in a movie at all, but that’s another story.) Models in magazines, actresses

in movies, and even celebrities on the red carpet generally have always worn the clothing chosen for them by others. Stylists, costume designers, and directors thus choose the “best” ways to present these women in media, methodically choosing which looks will appeal to an audience or support a fashion company the best, often with little to no input from the female subject herself.


With these women acting as mannequins for a certain look or message, it is clear that she is merely being used as a vehicle for promoting mainstream beauty standards, showing the perpetuation of how certain ways of dress correlate to a women being of more or less value to society.


But why should looking good take priority over feeling good? And what does it even mean to look “beautiful” in the first place? Contrary to the structures of beauty fed to us through popular media, beauty standards should be defined by our own selves. Clothing has the ability to both reflect and change the way we feel, and that’s why it’s so important to wear something that makes you feel good.

There’s no time for reflecting the beauty standards of a society that doesn’t appreciate you exactly the way you are. If you feel empowered in a small dress and pumps, go for it, but if wearing ugly sweats and an oversized band t-shirt will make you feel more productive and comfortable, you can do that too. The point is that women should not be limited by standards of beauty and success defined by popular discourse. There is no real definition of beauty, and the way you look does not reflect your worth.

your clothing does not define your value. wear what makes you feel good.


         Â?         Â?Â? Â?    ­  €‚  ƒ  „  Â?Â… †           ‡    ‡       ‡        ˆ‰        * * * In her article “‘Something Else besides a Mother’: Stella Dallas and the Maternal Melodrama,â€? author Linda Williams suggests that the “woman’s filmâ€? typically resolves its conflicts with “mixed messages -- of joy in pain, [and] of pleasure in sacrificeâ€? [5]. Written in 1984, Williams’ argument certainly reigns true for Stella Dallas, King Vidor’s 1937 maternal melodrama showcasing the class struggle of its title character in her efforts to raise her daughter. Despite the decades between Stella Dallas, Williams’ article, and the present day, it seems that Williams’ assertion about the “woman’s filmâ€? remains true today, as the same character narrative occurs in Todd Haynes’ 2015 film Carol, which showcases the


sexuality struggles of its title character and her efforts to raise her daughter. While Stella and Carol may have differing primary struggles, both are under tremendous conflict by trying to straddle two ends of a binary opposition. Ultimately, both women depart from a previous life they built, which is signified by an ultimate act of “foreclosure of motherhood” and in the end, both women must sacrifice their final connection to the world that they left -- their daughters -- in order to be considered “good” mothers in the eyes of society In both Stella Dallas and Carol, the primary cause of strife for the title characters stems from their being stuck on two ends of a binary opposition. For Stella, this is a single, middle-class lifestyle, and for Carol is an unprivileged, queer lifestyle. Knowing the two opposites cannot be reconciled while also knowing there is no way to return to their former lives, Stella and Carol both commit defining acts that discontinue their motherhood, signaling their final desire to cut off ties with their past lives. In Carol, this can be seen when she “no longer has it in her” to keep fighting for custody over Rindy and, “knowing in her bones what’s best for her daughter,” Carol concedes custody over Rindy to Harge. As Jenny James would call it in her article “Maternal Failures, Queer Futures: Reading The Price of Salt (1952) and Carol (2015) against Their Grain,” this scene “offers a screen through which viewers can attend to the foreclosure of motherhood” [3]. This defining event can likewise be seen in Stella Dallas when Stella visits Helen and asks her to take Laurel once she marries Stephen.


With the camera acting as a window to the “foreclosure of motherhood,” the viewer can locate the definite moments in either film where Carol and Stella concede their role as mothers. With foreclosing on motherhood, both Stella and Carol commit to one side of their respective oppositions, and in both cases, it is the one which is deemed less favorable in society -- for Stella, middle-class-hood, and for Carol, queerness. For the women to continue raising their daughters under the “inferior” end of the binary oppositions would be seen as dragging their daughters down with them in the “dregs of society,” and for that reason, Stella and Carol would be considered unfit mothers. Thus, the only way for Stella and Carol to be seen as “good” women and mothers is by cutting ties with their only connection to their past lives -- by sacrificing their daughters. In Stella’s case, she sends Laurel to live with Stephen and Helen in what seems to be the perfect, upper-class family lifestyle. For Carol, she chooses to give Harge full custody of Rindy for fear of having her sexuality used against her in the divorce case. Thus, Rindy is sacrificed into a more socially-acceptable and privileged household. Therefore, the “institution of motherhood” is “sanctified,” as Williams would suggest in her article, as both daughters are being propelled into a more secure, societally-approved-of lifestyle. Ultimately, the maternal melodrama plot comes down to the woman’s sacrifice of her child as a means of severing her own connection to a world in which she does not belong. This implies that a woman sim-


ply cannot be part of multiple worlds at once, but instead must choose one or the other. In other words, the woman must do as society expects of them given their assigned label, and ultimately must fit squarely into a mold. Branching into other labels and trying to reconcile complex identities seen by society as “contradictory” is not approved of. In terms of motherhood and seeing the daughter as a final connection to a past life, the character arcs portrayed by these two films convey the idea that being a “good” mother only comes as part of certain molds. From these films, it can be seen that queer motherhood and single, middle-class motherhood are both seen as societally unacceptable states for taking care of children, thus showing how society’s set standards of what a “good” mother does and does not look like. Although these films were released over 80 years apart, it is clear that societal expectations for women and the standards of the “woman’s film” have not changed much. Although the movement for women’s equality has made great strides in the last eight decades, it seems that the “woman’s film” has not quite caught up with modern ideas of women. Recent developments like the “Time’s Up” movement have raised awareness of the lack of women in leadership roles in the entertainment industry, which could possibly serve as a cause of the regressive portrayal of motherhood seen in Stella Dallas and Carol despite their difference in age. With the growth of movements such as this one in mind, there is certainly a hope for advances to be made in portraying complex and empowering female protagonists in the future of film.



On Campus: Northeastern Feminist Student Organization Her Campus Northeastern University Girls’ LEAP NU Pride Progressive Student Alliance

In Boston: Strong Women, Strong Girls Boston Boston GLOW Women’s Foundation of Boston Mass NOW New Wave - Young Boston Feminists


[1] Creasap. (2014). Zine-Making as Feminist Pedagogy. Feminist Teacher, 24(3), 155. doi: 10.5406/femteacher.24.3.0155 [2] Dalton, T. (2009, December 3). Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism. Retrieved from https://www.bookforum. com/print/1604/girl-zines-making-media-doing-femi nism-by-alison-piepmeier-4705. [3] James, J. M. (2018). Maternal Failures, Queer Futures. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 24(2-3), 291–314. doi: 10.1215/10642684-4324825 [4] Lefevre, Noah. [Polyphonic]. (2018, Mar 8). Riot Grrrl: The ‘90s Movement that Redefined Punk [Video file]. Retrieved from [5] Williams, L. (1984). “Something Else besides a Mother”: “Stella Dallas” and the Maternal Melodrama. Cinema Journal, 24(1), 2. doi: 10.2307/1225306


Maria Rozalia Finna (Ouvra) for letting me include her drawing “Vagenius.” Check out her work at: or @ouvra on Instagram. Bahareh and Farzaneh Safarani for letting me interview them and include images of their artwork. Check out their work at: Chrissy Bernard and Autumn Rhonemus for modeling in “Wear What Makes You Feel Good”


middle man zine december 2019

Profile for laurenwalsh

Middle Man  

a feminist zine. by lauren walsh. december 2019. (created as a final project for mscr 1320)

Middle Man  

a feminist zine. by lauren walsh. december 2019. (created as a final project for mscr 1320)