Zines document legacy of women's activism at CSULB

Published March 22, 2024
Magazines used in the making of zines in the library's Special Collections and University Archives room
Zine-making supplies on a table in the Special Collections and University Archives. On the library's third floor, the room is open to the public by appointment only.

Among rows of vintage books and historical documents in CSULB’s Special Collections and University Archives room sits a white binder full of 40-year-old ephemera. 

A bright yellow pamphlet addresses the “Working Woman’s Dilemma.” A clipping from the Daily Forty-Niner features a story about a Cal State Long Beach safety officer discussing “methods of rape prevention” with female students. A bulletin dated Oct. 28, 1984, advertises a campus lecture based on a question nearly every generation of women has asked themselves since the 1960s. The bulletin asks: “Have we come a long way?” 

In addition to cleverly showcasing the state of the women’s movement on the Cal State Long Beach campus in 1984, the collection of odds and ends served as a fitting backdrop for a gender-equality zine-making workshop celebrating Women’s History Month.

“Zines are short for magazines or fanzines,” explained Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Librarian Sarah Corona. “There are really no rules to creating zines, and they're very accessible. It's a low-cost, low-barrier way to publish your thoughts.” 

The March 20 workshop, thematically centered on reproductive justice, was one of many campus-wide Women’s History Month events. Among the panels, mixers and conferences: the Womxn of Color Leadership Conference,  Women & Careers Symposium, Beach Women in Engineering Conference, Like a Boss: Women in Science and Math, Women in Higher Education C-Suite: Attaining Advancement, Women’s Research Colloquium, and a program sponsored by the Black Resource Center called “Don’t Touch My Hair.” 

Celia Mejia, associate director of the Women’s & Gender Equity Center said she was thrilled with the turnout and engagement this year. 

A table of women at the Women's History Month kick-off event in March 2024
Creativity abounded during Women's History Month. Students design buttons during a kick-off event March 6 while dancers, below, provide entertainment.
Two photographs of dancers at Women's History Month event

“During Woman’s History Month, we highlight and honor the resilience, achievements and contributions of women throughout history and today,” Mejia said. “It is also another great reminder that the work for gender equity is ongoing and it does not stop when March is over.” 

That was no more apparent than at the library workshop, where Corona spoke about how zines have long been a mainstay of grassroots activism. She encouraged participants to use an assortment of collage materials to create their own six-page zines and then donate the finished products to the university for what the special collections archivist, Heather Steele Gajewski, hoped would be CSULB’s first zine collection. 

Although each zine’s subject matter was left up to participants, the official prompt involved reproductive justice — and most of the zines touched in some way on bodily autonomy. 

Bodily autonomy a major focus

That may have been because they were inspired by the opening speaker, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Chair Lori Baralt. Baralt defined reproductive justice as the right to have children, not have children, and parent children in safe and supportive environments. It has recently expanded to include sexual and gender autonomy. 

Baralt emphasized that the barriers are complex and deeply rooted — and that the abortion issue is only one small part of it. 

"Reproductive justice is both a tool and a result of systems of oppression based on race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age and immigration status,” she said, adding that it involves access to comprehensive healthcare services, contraception, prenatal care, and support for parenting and family planning.  

Thanks to civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, Baralt said, the feminist movement now recognizes the intersecting factors that affect reproductive experiences, such as poverty, racism, sexism and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination. Coined in 1989, Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionalism suggests that overlapping forms of inequality can compound, resulting in cumulative disadvantage.

Ultimately, Baralt said, the goal is liberation — of women’s bodies, yes, but also of land rights, healthcare access, family support, and systemic injustices such as mass incarceration. Still, on the minds of many in the room was the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protected the right to have an abortion. 

Roe v. Wade was always the floor. It was never the ceiling. It was never enough.

“I do for sure see it as a win for the 'pro-life' movement,” Baralt said, “but I think it's also a moment where we're hearing a lot more from reproductive justice advocates saying, 'Roe v. Wade was always the floor. It was never the ceiling. It was never enough.’” 

It’s hard to say what gender studies professors will be lecturing about 40 years from now, or what new frontier CSULB feminists will be facing. When the class of 2064 is asked whether women “have come a long way,” as the old slogan goes, how will they answer?   

Gajewski knows that's impossible to predict. But by compiling the zines into a collection that can live and grow in the university archives, she hopes future students will — at the very least — have a solid idea of where things stood in 2024. 

Vertical picture of Women's History month T-shirt
Wrapping up Women's History Month

March has been filled with Women’s History Month events, many co-hosted by the Women’s & Gender Equity Center. Still to come: Real Talk: Women in Business on March 27 and the Latina Connection Conference on March 28.