isms: On Starting a Feminist Zine in Saskatoon


“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
— Audre Lorde

Kelsey Philipchuk and Marissa Bialowas

It all started with assigned readings in our respective university classes: Audre Lorde, bell hooks and other influential thinkers. They ignited a fire within both of us. Already friends, we had a new common interest that quickly became a passion: feminism.

One weekend, while immersed in long, naïve discussions on the topic, we realized that we also shared a common experience. Whenever we identified ourselves as feminists in our social circles, we would be confronted with discomfort or disapproval. We were left asking, “Why is feminism so misunderstood?” In that moment, we decided we would undertake some kind of project to explore and address this question.

As the project began to take shape, our idea of “feminism” continued to evolve. We started to recognize our own privilege and the way it softened our experiences with sexism. On social media, we came across countless articles that focused on a specific type of feminism: hairy legs and armpits, nipple campaigns, and pictures of t-shirts that read “FEMINIST AS F*CK.” While it was encouraging to see a younger generation of women rallying together to reclaim our undeniable grrrl power, discussions about ditching the razor forever seemed insufficient. Slowly, we began to accept the existence of white, mainstream feminism, as well as how we perpetuated and benefited from it.

We soon discovered that the discussion addressing gender equity in relation to privilege was alive and well. One google search of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of “intersectionality” unveiled a plethora
of feminisms that recognized race, ability, sexuality, age and perceived mental health, as a part of one’s identity. Seven months following our weekend visit, we returned to the drawing board to discuss a potential project that would be more inclusive of a plurality of voices. After countless proposed ideas we settled on the concept of a mini magazine. Though skeptical of this approach at
first, we let our imaginations run free; we discussed zine culture, art as a means of storytelling, the power of sharing and its potential to raise awareness and educate. Maybe we could foster a platform that allowed marginalized voices to share their experiences through art, which others could enjoy and learn from. This seed of an idea eventually became -isms, a contributor-based feminist/art zine.

Knowing the potentially influential power of print, we wanted to create something meaningful, something people would enjoy looking at, something that anyone could pick up and “get something” out of. We began by establishing five goals, which are printed clearly on our first two issues (but continue to evolve): (1) promote positive/diverse feminism(s); (2) inclusivity; (3) accessibility; (4) foster discussion;
and (5) acknowledge the intersections of oppression. These goals informed the content of the zine, as well as encouraged us to persevere when technological frustrations and creative blocks left us sprawled out on the floor in defeat.

Despite the initial and ongoing challenges, we have successfully printed two issues, all the while adjusting and improving our process. We begin by putting out a call for contributors, which is circulated both by physical posters and social media platforms. Strangers and familiar faces alike send us their creative goodies, which have ranged from poetry, photography, doodles, paintings, comics and more! Then, we fundraise, run bake sales, and empty our pockets, as our hours hunched over a screen turn into something we can hold in our hands. Finally, we drive around town and distribute our modest amount of copies in places that we hope might have a positive impact on someone’s day.

We both happily admit to having much to learn both as activists and zine- makers, as we always will. But, we’ve learnt that even a speck-sized zine can have inspiriting effects and bring people
together to share, learn, reflect and feel. We intend to continue to foster an inclusive, physical platform where we hope all beautiful and diverse voices can feel safe and heard.

-isms is a contributor-based feminist/art zine printed on Treaty 6 Territory in Saskatoon, SK. Striving for accessibility, the zine is available to readers at no cost, and it can be found in local businesses and non- profits. Artistic submissions range from paintings, sketches, poetry, crosswords, photography, comics and more. Contributions tend to reflect experiences and important issues related to various aspects of feminism and intersectionality, such as gender, sexuality, race, perceived mental health and so on. Learn more about -isms or get involved on Facebook ( or Instagram (@address.the.isms).