Feminists at Brown University have gone old school.
Yesterday student Lena Sclove filed federal Title IX and Clery Act complaints against the Rhode Island university, which has been in the news recently for tolerating sexual violence on campus. On campus, organizers are coupling these high-profile efforts with that traditional feminist punk protest: the zine. Bluestockings Magazine, a student multimedia collective, has put out a gorgeous issue exposing and resisting violence on campus. The survivor narratives are powerful and the design striking, but perhaps most noteworthy is the fierce utopianism, a refusal to accept rape culture as an inevitability to be managed rather than abolished. “Re:imagine (a world without sexual violence),” the zine demands, right above a clipped photo of armed nuns.
It’s also refreshing to be reminded of the legacy of organizing on which current student efforts are built. Coverage of campus anti-violence organizing is too often decidedly ahistorical; you’d think from articles on those crazy kids strategizing over social media and learning about laws that no student had thought to organize against sexual assault before Twitter. Student organizers today are certainly using some new strategies and riding a wave of unprecedented national energy but the movement to end campus violence has a long story: case in point, Bluestockings just published a quarter-century history of “sexual assault activism at Brown.”
For this reason, Bluestocking’s use of a decidedly retro medium — now uploaded online for a vast distribution not possible when zines first emerged — seems particularly fitting. As a movement of student organizers we create fresh resistance using the materials passed on to us by previous generations who started the fight we’re trying to finish.