Artistic activism on display at the King's Library
February 9, 2024
Until February 16, visitors to the King’s Cardinal Carter Library can see the results of a class project for the Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies (GSWS) 1020 class. The students have produced approximately 60 zines that they have been working on since this past fall.
Dr. Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray, Sessional Instructor of Philosophy and Social Justice & Peace Studies, says her students were excited about the opportunity to allow their voices to be heard, through art, by others in the community and to reach others about important issues.
Students picked topics they were passionate about and, for many, the topics were personal in some way.
The zines cover a wide range of topics. Some of the zines focus on body issues such as eating disorders, beauty standards, fat shaming, menstruation, medical misogyny, sexual assault, and objectification. Others discuss gender and sexuality themes related to media and sports. Still others have a focus on the experiences of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, examining discrimination, shame, current toxic debates, and bathrooms. Other zines cover Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, & Two-Spirit (MMIWG2S), domestic violence, rape culture, and safety issues.
Alexis Alexander, a first-year Childhood and Youth Studies student, created a zine about body image and the perceptions of beauty that society places on women and/or female bodies.
“I want all women to feel confident in their bodies and start ignoring the beauty expectations placed on them. I believe all bodies are beautiful and I wanted to spread that belief by making people feel confident and better understand that they are beautiful no matter what,” says Alexander.
“Having my zine in the library makes me excited because I might be impacting someone’s life and helping them realize they are beautiful and perfect just the way they are,” says Alexander.
Alexander says that while making the zine, she found that the judgment often found in public is not found on the King’s campus. “I had an opportunity to reflect on the negative experiences people I know, as well as myself, have had to experience in public and online because of beauty standards and I was able to realize King’s is a welcoming campus and it is okay and preferred to be your full authentic self,” she says.
“I wanted to create a resource that could be used to help young children understand the reasons why preferred pronouns are useful. School curriculum teaches children about the grammatical significance and purpose of pronouns, but the public discourse is confusing because the discussion is not centered on grammar, but on identity, and the right to self-identify,” says Jamieson.
Jamieson is excited to have his zine on display in the library, and appreciates the opportunity to share the zines with other students.
Dr. Baltzer-Jaray says the zine project was “a new element I introduced to allow students to speak to social justice, gender and sexuality issues in a way that wasn’t a test or essay [but rather] artistic activism.”
Many students write poetry, draw, or create other kinds of art, and Dr. Baltzer-Jaray felt that an assignment like creating a zine would help connect those skills with the themes of the course
“I also wanted to engage their brains in a different way than the standard means, use art to talk about social justice and gender issues and while doing so have some fun,” she says.
At the same time, she sees the project “as a way to speak about issues that sometimes are very difficult to talk about or don’t get talked about enough at all and folks suffer in silence. Zines allow us to move through these issues in ways that words sometimes cannot capture and speak to us in ways that are much deeper – through our emotions and immediate, non-rational, reactions. They can inspire deeper reflection and hopefully empathy. Students, I think, want to be part of real change and zines can be part of activism and connection.”
The zine project initially grew out of a publication that was created in 2022 for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence in which members of the King’s community were encouraged to submit artwork.
“The art we got was powerful, and folks on campus not only enjoyed seeing the zine but those who contributed also expressed positive feelings after they let their art out into the world,” says Dr. Baltzer-Jaray. The response to the community zine led her to introduce the zine project.
Dr. Baltzer-Jaray was also inspired by her own experience creating zines in the ’90s. “The intention was powerful art that was going to be photocopied and distributed – you never kept those to yourself,” she says. She was also inspired by Zine Fiends, a zine group that works with the London Public Library.
For a project like this, Dr. Baltzer-Jaray knew that the Cardinal Carter Library, “a community space of learning that is essential to the ways we grow knowledge,” was the place to share the zines to reach the campus community and inspire conversations.
She found Adrienne Co-Dyre, Director of Libraries, to be very enthusiastic when she was approached with the idea of displaying the zines. “Everyone at the library has been so amazing in supporting the idea and the best ways we can make this accessible,” says Dr. Baltzer-Jaray.