How to start an online feminist collective

The curator of online zine Girls Get Busy gives Dazed the nuts and bolts of starting a feminist cyber crew

For the birds collective cover
For The Birds Collective

Is there a way to be a bad feminist? How do you survive in the male art world? What does it mean to be a female writer? In conjunction with our Girls Rule issue, some of our favourite writers, activists and artists will be musing on these questions for Girl Guides, a series of how-tos and thinkpieces on the state of modern womanhood. We asked the founder of Girls Get Busy, Beth Siveyer, to share some tips on how to start a feminst zine. 

Keep calm and start a Tumblr

My first Tumblr was a personal account. Being able to easily connect with other feminists inspired me to start Girls Get Busy. I wanted to create a platform and network for feminists to showcase their work and share their experiences. It’s great to have instant access to people’s thoughts, opinions, struggles and experiences – to see how other people relate to the world. We are now able to see art, read essays, poetry, and countless other things through our computer screens that only ten years ago would seem impossible for us to gain access to.

Posting online can feel intimidating at first. When I started Girls Get Busy I was sometimes super anxious about posting, because I had set an almost impossible standard for myself as a feminist, thinking I had to know the answers to everything. Whereas today I am more confident in myself and accept that we are all human and learning. Sometimes when I look back on early posts, they look a little naive to me, but I can appreciate they are part of my development.

When posting about sensitive subject matters (abuse, rape, nudity, blood, etc), it’s important to use trigger warnings. Trigger warnings are usually placed at the top of sensitive posts and sometimes as a hashtag, for the benefit of those who may be affected by certain subjects, for example, survivors may not want to see photos or articles relating to abuse. This is a matter of courtesy for your readers.

Girls get busy
The ninth issue of Girls Get Busy zine Girls Get Busy

Call for submissions

So, you’ve set up your Tumblr, and now you want to make a zine. You need to post a call for submissions! First of all you need to decide what kind of content you’d like for your zine; and whether it’ll be themed.

Girls Get Busy’s central theme is feminism, but I like the zines having an anthology feel to them, and for them to include an element of surprise. You however, might find you want to focus on one kind of work or theme. For example SALT.’s fourth issue features work based around the theme of pageantry.

It’s also worth figuring out early on if you’re going to be printing it in black and white or colour, as that can affect the type of work you need. Of course, you may not even want to print, you could just host a digital version online, which is what I now do with GGB. Using issuu.com GGB is now able to reach a much wider audience for free.

“When I started Girls Get Busy I was sometimes super anxious about posting, because I had set an almost impossible standard for myself as a feminist, thinking I had to know the answers to everything"

The first ten Girls Get Busy zines were all handmade with stickers, scissors and glue, and then photocopied. As the issues got bigger, I found this way too time consuming and switched to designing it digitally, this can also be a lot cheaper.

It’s also a good idea to open an online store – Bigcartel is a good shop hosting site, with basic accounts where you can stock up to five products for free. Another great way to distribute zines is to take part in a zine fair. This is also a great way to meet other zine lovers, zinesters, and maybe even do some swaps!

Don't let deadlines get you down

Getting a team of bloggers working together can be tricky, and missed deadlines can be frustrating. Every project will have its missed deadlines, so try not let them get you down. It’s really worth putting in extra effort in communicating with your team, and being patient. Sometimes some of the best content can come from people who you have had to go the extra mile with.

girls get busy plectrum necklace
Build creative relationships: the GGB necklace was made with jewellery designer Glam Racket Girls Get Busy / Glam Racket

Host events

Events don’t have to cost money to put on, and depending on what kind of thing you want to do, you might be surprised at how many venues are willing to give you the space for free.

In the first year of Girls Get Busy, I hosted zine launch parties with my friend Camille in a bar where we put on bands, film screenings and even karaoke to celebrate the latest issue. These were fun and they definitely helped get the name out there but we both became tired of the party bar environment and felt it was no longer the right place for us, so we stopped them after a year. We still wanted to do events, but we needed to be in more control of the environment, so in our second year we decided to use a pub with a function room and gallery as a base. 

It’s now also possible to host free online events on a website like plug.dj which is actually a platform for DJs, but lets you create a chat room that streams videos from Youtube. I hosted a couple of these - a music video party to launch the Girls Get Busy online exhibition on Grace Miceli’s Art Baby Gallery, and a movie club screening of Born In Flames. It’s really cool because you’re instantly sharing an experience and not everyone can attend 'real life' events. 

Build creative relationships :)

Last year I invited other feminist Tumblr collectives to “take over” the Girls Get Busy blog. It was great opportunity to introduce my followers to new content and perspectives. Each take over featured collective’s posting a biography, a mixtape and recommendations for books, websites, films, internet videos, artists and inspiring people. Reaching out to fellow artists and collectives is a great way to show appreciation and support for their work. 

Google it

The internet can seem to be full of concepts, terms and abbreviations you might not know the meaning of, this can make you feel excluded sometimes, but it’s super easy just to google things and find out the meaning quickly, I do this allllll the time. 

Never stop learning

The number one piece of advice I can really give anyone is never stop learning about other people’s perspectives, and how different all of our life experiences can be. 

Learning from each other and understanding each others struggles and successes helps us grow as people. With the huge variety of blogs and voices available to us now, you’re only ever a click away from a lesson.

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