In the wake of the presidential election, the U.S saw a major spike in hate crimes and harassment experienced across the spectrum of the most marginalised: religious minorities, women, LGBTQ people. It seemed that the election of a racist, misogynist, fascist man encouraged violence and vitriol: who woulda guessed.
In a fearless reaction to these threats, the people behind Repro Rights Zine – India Menuez, Layla Alter and Emma Holland – teamed up with Robie Flores and Ali Withers, the directors of the wonderful video project, Self Defense Starter Kit. The collaboration has birthed Self Defense Starter Kit, a radical zine that hopes to build upon the accessibility of the eight videos teaching self defense moves offered online. It’s a workshop to equip people with the ability to harness their bodies and voices when forced to stand against the poisonous products of a fascist system – an important how-to that fits in your pocket.
Following the success of their first zine on reproductive health, which was free and printable, the group decided to continue with the accessible format – asserting how those who tend to need information like this the most have the least opportunity to access.
“We loved that it was tangential to the original Repro Rights Zine, but still very much of the same ethos – being as informed as possible and using that information as a tool for change and empowerment, and taking a stance against prejudice and a regression of rights in the current sociopolitical climate,” says Emma Holland.
“We want you to print it 100 times and give it to everyone in your homeroom, or send the link to your entire address book, or post it on your Instagram and have someone across the country get information they wouldn't have otherwise,” Holland adds.
Repro Rights’ first zine is also available to print, fold and distribute for free: it’s a handy rundown of reproductive rights and guidelines surrounding birth control, abortion and similar services in the U.S – pretty integral, given the Trump administration’s relentless crusade to destroy body autonomy for millions who rely on Planned Parenthood.
The dynamic Self Defense Starter Kit is bursting with colour, illustrated by Areeba Siddique, a Pakistani illustrator, blogger, activist and advocate for young women.
Layla Alter says of Siddique’s work: “We've tried to make a point of featuring artists from diverse backgrounds, and I felt she was fitting because she is true to herself, outspoken and powerful and that’s the message we hoped to send with this zine.”
The energetic illustrations depict women in hijabs: Muslim women in the U.S are horrifically experiencing waves of assault and abuse while just trying to exist in a space. Self Defense Starter Kit previously worked with WISE, a grassroots Muslim self-empowerment and self-defense group. In the video workshops you can find online, you can see the founders of WISE – Rana Abdelhamid and Maryam Aziz – teaching a range of assortment of self-defense techniques, from de-escalation, to what to do if someone grabs your hijab.
Speaking of the importance of being able to defend yourself in serious times, India Menuez tells Dazed: “In an ideal world, without patriarchy, without white supremacy, without Islamophobia, without cis supremacy... we wouldn't have to worry about this, and it is frustrating to be told it is our responsibility to defend ourselves against systems that want to crush us, when in fact they could just cease to operate on crushing us.”
“But the reality is that it is scary, and with the rise of hate crimes under the new administration, feeling prepared to stay safe in unsafe scenarios is important. Building up the muscle memory, knowing how to say NO, knowing how to step in when you see someone else under attack; even if you never have to use these skills, it can make you feel safer and more empowered to feel prepared for the worst.”
You can download Self Defense Starter Kit here
Follow Anna Cafolla on Twitter here @annacafolla