Emeline Boehringer - Girls Gone Great Recipient 2017
My foray into the world of zines, art, and activism began more than two years ago during the summer of 2014. That summer a friend of mine, armed with the explosive words of feminist activist Kathleen Hanna, recruited me to contribute to the first issue of a publication that would come to dominate my life—Beast Grrl Zine. A zine, first and foremost, is a type of small magazine that was important at the time of third wave feminism. Activists like Kathleen Hanna used zines as a platform for their feminist proclamations. Perhaps the most powerful part of zines and zine-making is the do-it-yourself spirit imbued in the idea that publication can lend ideas a tangible power and legitimacy.
Beast Grrl Zine started off innocuously enough, a small booklet made by a group of girls energized by the lack of feminist organizations for teens in Baltimore City. Since then, as a co-editor of Beast Grrl Zine and now co-founder of Beast Grrl Collective, I have edited 10 issues of feminist writings and helped to organize countless community events aimed at bringing zines and young women to the forefront of DIY and art spaces in Baltimore. As a founding member of the Collective, I have organized an Intersectional Feminism Workshop with Baltimore’s Monument Quilt Project, which aims to support survivors of rape and sexual assault. I have also worked with Hollaback Baltimore, an anti-street harassment organization, to organize an event held in a community bookstore to educate young women about street harassment. With the other girls who work within the Collective, I have hosted various zine-making workshops at Baltimore’s DIY Fest, the North Avenue Knowledge Exchange, the Baltimore Youth Initiative High School, and the Baltimore School for the Arts. This past December, the other two co-editors and I conducted an eight-session workshop with the Baltimore Office of Promotion in the Arts during which we taught a group of middle school girls about female artists and female art collectives. I have watched Beast Grrl Collective grow into a youth-run, grant-funded organization that creates real change in my community.
Although there are many art spaces and communities in Baltimore, very few of those organize events that promote feminism in art, and even fewer are open to high school students. By publishing the work of young women in Baltimore and promoting that work and youth activism in general, I hope to create spaces that include and support the voices of young feminists. My work both producing the zine and organizing community events has created a community of its own. I have found a group of like-minded young women with whom I can talk about my ideas and goals as an artist and as a community member. As a young woman, I am all too familiar with the lack of attention given to my opinions and the opinions of other women, especially when politicized through the lens of feminism. Beast Grrl Collective is an important project because it lets me amplify my voice and the voices of others in a world where such voices are not always heard. Through this project, I can make a positive impact in the communities in Baltimore that have shaped me.
In a perfect world, every voice would be recognized as valuable and important. I envision a future Baltimore that creates inclusive spaces to address issues that young women face. Beast Grrl Collective has been my way of being an active member of my community, but it is one small part of the change that needs to happen in Baltimore. There are challenges in this city that face not only female communities but also black communities, queer communities, and communities of other marginalized individuals. In these last few years, Baltimore has experienced some major traumas. There is no one solution to the systemic issues that plague Baltimore. Rather, the solution will come from the sustained work of many organizations powered by members of the communities that they aim to serve. This work is hard, and it demands the time and energy of every community member dedicated to a brighter future. This vision might be a long way off, but Beast Grrl Collective and its publication Beast Grrl Zine have been my way of contributing to what I envision as a Baltimore well-equipped to tackle the issues it faces today.