“Cunts are great works of art we should appreciate.”
No, I’m not plagiarizing Robbie Turner’s library sex-inducing note to Cecilia Tallis. I’m quoting a work housed within the hallowed halls of academia itself: The CUNT Zine by a zine maker who goes by Amanda*. I checked out the zine from none other than the Barnard Zine Collection.
The collection is housed in the Lefrak Center on the first floor of Barnard Hall. Barnard’s zine collection, already uncommon on a college campus, is especially unique in that the zines are not treated as a special collection or archival materials. Instead, it is a circulating collection; students can check out zines the same way they can check out books. The collection is all thanks to Jenna Freedman, Barnard’s blue-haired zine librarian, who started the zine collection in 2003 in the hopes of diversifying the types of authors on the library’s shelves. Most of the zine-makers represented are either women, POC, members of the LBTQ+ community, or some combination of the above. The collection, 6,500 zines strong, ranges in topics from the trans experience to anarchism to sexual assault to riot grrrl.
“In an Ivy League university library, there are 9 million books, but it’s not necessarily a place where people feel included,” Freedman says. “People who write the books in our libraries have PhDs, or are journalists and have all these credentials. But people who make zines are more relatable. This is the space where ‘other’ is the default.”
I sit on the floor of LeFrak the morning after the election and fortify myself to take down the patriarchy by consuming zines with interesting titles. fallopian falafel: special issue on BREASTS. The Invisibility of Women Prisoners’ Resistance. Middle School Dance. Urban Nomad. Free to Choose: A Women’s Guide to Reproductive Freedom. These zines, created by other teenagers and women of color, make me feel like I’m surrounded by a rebellious, stick-it-to-The-Man girl gang.
When I ask Freedman what she thinks the importance of zines are in light of the election, she only has one thing to say.
“I think zines are an important underground outlet and they come out of a tradition of people finding a venue for dangerous opinions.”
Illustration by Jiachen Feng