Maya, Ada and Jill – MGC co-founders (art by Frankie Ward)
Zine PDF Edition Edition 1
Zine PDF Edition 2: Edition 1
Maya: Designer and Editor of Zine edition 1
When the time came for Jill and me to erect two editions of our first ever My Goddess Complex (MGC) zine, a special issue dedicated to embracing feminism and intersectionality, I was gifted a chance to reflect on our unanimous conceptualisation of this small press project- as situated both in history and in the quaint bubble of Warwick campus. After being exposed to the historical context of subversive zine history, specifically the Riot Grrrl Press era which resisted the commercial imperatives of conglomerate hierarchies, I mentally situated our creation in a cultural and historical context. By creating a blog, we enabled our wish to write freely and design a personal image without the somewhat editorial censorship that comes from submitting to the more mainstream University newspapers or magazines (an anxiety which many prospective writers and editors face). While some question online publishing’s longevity, the growth of blogging and the flexibility it allows (Doueihi 63) has challenged the previously normative confines of established traditional print journalism by creating new paradigms for both publication and authorship (Doueihi 53). We used the digital as a window to the analog, creating an interface between them. Blogging is almost a renegade form of publishing as it resists the controlled society which curates something just for you and allows the public to see something new that wouldn’t be found everywhere on the internet.
Simultaneously, the same ethics and aesthetics that went into the production of 20th century zines, whereby marginalised young adults hand produced a literary revolution, was channelled into our zine. It also coincided with our own determination to encourage everyone we know to write for us- one doesn’t have to be an expert to make an author or to seize the means of reproduction. Authorship is a social relation more than an identity, as both publishers and authors are reliant on each other for production despite their different perspectives (Raymond 14). The process of editing this zine and its articles required far more critical engagement on my behalf in contrast to the exploratory freedom I exhibited when writing for the blog as an author. We hope to proceed in the light of current blogs and zines, such as Jezebel and The Bitch, through both a digital and print outlet. No topic and no identity is off limits.
The original WordPress blog this zine is based on was created on June 25th, 2017 with two other students. We have been self-publishing articles in order to gain journalistic experience ever since. The idea to start one came to me by observing the way in which digital literacy developed as the publishing environment changed to frame today’s emerging cultural identity (Doueihi 53) and its inclusion of blogs. My Goddess Complex (blog) covers a wide range of issues beyond feminism, such as politics, transphobia, fashion, art, and health while also allowing for creative writing pieces like poems and streams of consciousness. I have purchased the official domain for the blog/website and it contains pages and columns with details on authors and links to blog archives, following standard designs (Doueihi 59). I have also documented this process on the personal blog I created: www.cultureanthropology.wordpress.com
After visiting the Nottingham Zine Library, we were inspired by ideas of designs such as collages, transparent covers, uses of stereotypically feminine pastels and hand-written fonts that we took as precedents and existing models for the project. Femme Fatale’s first issue on female empowerment particularly stood out to me as it featured a black woman on the cover; reminiscent of a prelapsarian Eve, she was boasting a green bikini and standing amidst matching shrubbery. The full body shot helped shape the physicality of the image I selected for our own cover.
I used mainly two sans serif typeface font designs on the zine, which I downloaded from an external website in order to be as original as possible – ‘All Around’ and ‘TypeType’. They are slightly geometric and have an element of post-modernistic humour as they contain a nostalgia for past typefaces (Bringhurst 136). I sought to mimic a typewriter’s font in order to associate the typographic dimensions of the project with the aesthetic and political movement of DIY zine culture and the “scrappy messiness” seen in copies of Bikini Kill and Jigsaw (Piepmeier and Zeisler 67). It seeks to imitate the radical propaganda that was created by “presumptuous, uneducated” xerox copy machines and other low budget operations, (Bringhurst 18) or perhaps of handwriting. I hoped to maintain legibility, one of the main principles of typography (Bringhurst 17), while also allowing for a unique element of disarray and vulnerability that brings the reader and writer closer together by emphasising the publisher’s connection to their product. The type settings I chose are aimed to be interpreted as a “visual form of language” (Bringhurst 17) linking the reader to a time when zines thrived but with all the timelessness of the radical, anti-conformist messages they hoped to convey. I wanted the zine to be good quality yet still have this aspect of craftiness through the feminine art, polaroid like portraits and critical rants dispersed in it.
The process of both designing and editing a somewhat literary based ‘magazine’ with InDesign, Photoshop and Publisher required us to form a balance between the editorial aim of celebrating individuality and culture, through a lens of absolute inclusion, with the more artistic background of incorporating an already established, extremely feminine image as a motif. This balance was struck by combining relatively ‘serious’ topical articles with our current mascot: Venus (Aphrodite), goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. Although our ultimate aim is to produce all of our own images through graphic design, illustration and photography, I was originally inspired by contemporary graphic designer Ege Islekel who I discovered through art pages on Instagram. He subjects infamous figures to modern circumstances in a series of cleverly manipulated images. Venus is placed in different modern settings (running on a treadmill, wearing makeup and getting plastic surgery) which resonated with me due to the way in which contemporary standards of femininity are satirically exaggerated. I interpreted the illustration as a comment on the hollow superficiality of modern beauty standards. Even a symbol of purity, love and transcendence (a goddess) succumbs to the artificial criteria used to navigate today’s culture of social desirability. The juxtaposition of the classic icon with the modern canvas parallels the way in which we aim to tackle larger, sometimes philosophical, questions from a 21st century perspective. Due to the reader’s memory retention of afterimage, the individual illustrations on the previous page are therefore interlinked into those on the following pages, compounding time and memory (Smith 68) to help create a concept of heavenly, mythical and flourishing imagery throughout the zine. It can be viewed sequentially, the middle pages can be spread into a whole piece, or the back two pages and the cover can be viewed as a whole illustration. I originally wanted to place another image on page 6 next to Peter’s poem so that the back cover is also an image; however, there wouldn’t have been enough text (as there are already two other back covers) and the reader can now turn over the zine to immediately read about its aim.
The shocking pink of the cover image has the potential ‘danger’ to ostracise anyone with a slightly more fragile masculinity, but I chose to embrace this stereotype to make a point even louder than the particularly bold shade of fuchsia selected. The layout of the zine takes on a ‘bar menu’ format which I hope will take the reader on a slightly more unique journey. The ‘fourth’ dimension of the project, the time in which recipient will be able to handle and unfold the pages of the zine, will hopefully be interesting yet easy to navigate. I have tried to create a reading experience that is both informative, educational and artistic within a literary sphere due to the poetic and philosophical components. As the order of viewing is maintained and the zine can be viewed multiple ways (but ultimately page by page in the codex), the fold of the zine becomes an implied cycle (Smith 63) and the visual aspect forms a totality.
Although I’m keen to perhaps explore the mainstream A4 double page spread, I decided to shape the format it in a way allusive to a digital article layout (similar to that of a blog format). The full-size Venus on the cover metaphorically encapsulates the entire zine as a stereotypically gendered, feminine object- an ‘art doll’ box meant to confine a socially desirable replica of a woman into a plasticised prison for children to open, play with and continue to be influenced by. Not only is Venus’ body type, viewed as perfection centuries ago, a subversion of the Barbie Doll proportions which you expect to be placed in the box, but her stature is also less passive than other female bodies portrayed in art. For example, The Sleeping Ariadne helplessly lies on a chaise, lethargically exposing her body.
Although we’re calling it a zine, the object’s format and intersectional aim is also reminiscent of a pamphlet. Our design takes up one third of A3 three per page and, even though it differs from the popular octavo fold of most pamphlets, the rectangular pages may remind one of leaflets or hand outs. Pamphlets exercise social influence as, by being read, they assist in the formation of critical debate and help build foundations of intellectual and moral communities (Raymond 25). Anonymous readers who make up the public sphere followed pamphlets in the past, in a similar model to Twitter, WordPress or Instagram today. In the modern day, an equally complex interplay between the authorial figure and the anonymous readers emerges because writers write for consumers rather than patrons. Pamphlets have political and polemical uses in their production and material form (Raymond 25). This is an aspect that has been brought to zines and even social media platforms.
As a zine, this project is necessarily reliant on small press publishing. Even if we had access to more extensive resources like a printing company, its form is that between a magazine and a personal letter (Duncombe 14) which is a small-scale endeavour at heart that involves an even more intimate act of making art public. The zine would be difficult to flourish in a mainstream format as it activates awareness of feminist, LGBTQ+, artistic and cultural identities that are not as strongly spread over the pages of corporate magazines furnished by commercial media operations (Duncombe 6), such as Condé Nast, that are predicated on consumption. Zines lend themselves well to self-publishing due to their more socially engaged concerns. As my manifesto seeks to show, brightly coloured, unapologetically feminine, loud and handmade magazines, are not taken as seriously as glossy, monochromatic pages which cover issues such as travel, lifestyle, health and fashion, that are present in the “studied hipness of music and style magazines” (Duncombe 6). The “honesty, kindness, anger, love and radical politics” (Duncombe 5) of zines are sincerer and more intimate as a reading experience. While zines focus on the formation of public opinion like mainstream magazines, their identification with the social margins and subcultures intends to invert hierarchies and sanctioned authority.
While I couldn’t fit every full-length article I’ve ever published into this zine, I edited informative excerpts that can be read in full on the blog. We originally wanted to create a place that encapsulates all aspects of ourselves and our friendship- a website created two years ago with our own domain. Now, this new-found zine has officially transformed MGC into a place that catalyses complete freedom of expression, harbours self-love, and dictates the liberal views you’d expect from two Philosophy and Literature undergrads at the University of Warwick. Nevertheless, we’re always open to expanding our mindsets and having our views challenged, so don’t let our opinions deter you from submission. This website is indeed a ‘safe space’ for people of all races, genders, origins and sexual orientations. However, ultimately, we hope to do more than just that. Some of the topics we have written on, and plan to write about, are delivered specifically to start a conversation, to stir up feelings of discomfort that ‘educate’ the reader on social issues close to our heart.
Every reader and creator of MGC is a protagonist, a voice penetrating the murky waters of today’s millennial constructs. By contributing to the MGC zine and its online presence, whether through writing for us, sharing its creations and/or supporting its production, you will help raise the love child we birthed two years ago and participate in a proudly female journalistic legacy.
This project, which began as a hobby, is what we hope to guide us into the world of media as we learn to become better at expressing ourselves and maintaining content strategies. Creating a physical format of our articles has catapulted the primary resolution we made on the one-year anniversary of the blog: to self-publish our team’s articles and artwork. To begin making our journalistic publication known on campus, if not beyond.
The artistic aspect of this zine wouldn’t have been possible without our contributors: several creatives with their own aspirations and pursuits, some of whom are venturing towards their own forms of DIY self-publishing. I’d like to thank the artists, illustrators and writers who are both published in the zine and blog, along with everyone else who’s encouraged us to keep writing for the sake of our sanity and the positive message we wish to spread. Peter Page’s Sweep The Temple, an allegorical poem inspired by the theme of woman worship, takes on a cosmic rhythm and melody and is a textual illustration of his composed artwork- The Virgin of Guadalupe (by Dali) and an Atlas bearing the world. He sees them as two versions of the exact same thing, which is why they are folded together in a way where the picture ‘kisses’ the text. Furthermore, interviewing local students such as Kenyan artist and law undergrad Naila Aroni and collaborating with fellow zine/blog editor Liam Skillen from Grapefruit Soup has helped us create a small interlinked community of enthusiastic creatives. Most recently, Nottingham Trent animation student Frankie Ward has created an art piece of us (the blog editors) which we will feature soon.
We are actively seeking more contributors and any articles (without offensive or problematic views of course) can be submitted for review and almost instantaneously published. We are in the process of creating editorial and columnist roles (even from ‘foreign correspondents’ taking years abroad) for our different sections- fashion and arts, film and music, lifestyle and health, and culture and identity. I would also love to expand by adding even more specific sections such as ‘personal essays’ and a ‘poetry/philosophy anthology’ to our menu, rather than merely trying to encompass all of our articles into one of the aforementioned headings.
Jill : Designer and Editor of Zine edition 2
Creating this zine for the Warwick small press publishing module has been inspiring, well-motivated, and truly a good opportunity all round. Sure, it began as just a final project, but for me and my friends who created our website/blog, it was a chance to create our first ever zine for My Goddess Complex. My Goddess Complex began almost two years ago in the third term of our first year at Warwick after we had finished our first set of university exams and were feeling liberated and powerful (and, also, brimming with creativity). Basing it on lifestyle, art, music, fashion, and culture, we started as a blog on WordPress with our own domain and decided to make social media platforms to create something of a brand on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just recently we hit the 50 articles posted online mark, having taken needed breaks in term time, but we always took the approach of writing when we feel like we want to or have something to say on a topic. This way we never feel pressured under unnecessary deadlines we would give to ourselves and can write as much or as little as we would like and self-publish. Having done this, the small press module has been the perfect insight into the physical publishing aspect of the editorial world, and motivated our career goals of becoming professional editors; but, of course we have societies for practice for now.
Beginning the zine was a team effort, with a circle of friends into creative projects, we were lucky to have friendly faces that were only happy to contribute art work and written pieces whilst we would still go on to edit, design and include our own articles in the zine too. My only previous experience where zines are concerned was co-editing a small scale first attempted zine for a friend’s own project called Grapefruit Soup. I only contributed with a book review and the digital aesthetic on that instance however, so, you could say I was apprehensive on how this would go. Luckily, I had at least some InDesign knowledge from the University newspaper, which is honestly better than none with that app under timed situations. So, I tried using InDesign and Photoshop to design one of our editions of this zine as we have created two. I also visited the Nottingham Zine Library in the Christmas holidays with my friend from his other project, and found some much needed inspiration in creating this one. Maya and I knew that if we were going to be political then we would definitely go towards a feminist zine. Having written articles under the umbrella of feminism on My Goddess Complex it seemed appropriate and ever so relevant that we thematise the zine to a movement we feel strongly about. This zine is not just about a one-dimensional feminism but about a true equal feminism inclusive to all with awareness of intersectionality and men as feminists too.
P.S For my first editor’s note, I really enjoyed writing this like spewing my inner monologue. Well, I hope you enjoy the zine as much as we do and thank you to the contributors.
Images in the zine are either our own or sourced by Instagram (@Egeislekel artwork on the front).