Riot Mamas

An explosion of new zines explore the ins and outs of motherhood

| November-December 2003

Remember the grrrlzines of yesteryear, the mass media-hyped riot grrrl phenomenon of creative teenage girls who were—gasp!—engaged in forming their own culture? Get ready for a new catchphrase: riot mama.

While teenage girls are still making zines today, a new category of home-made publications has appeared, the “mama zine” made by women 10 to 20 years older. Sporting titles such as The Edgy-catin’ Mama, Afro Mama, Yoga Mama, Motherload, Afterbirth, Red Diaper Baby, and Lone Star Ma, mama zines typically offer stories by new moms (often confessing ambivalent feelings about motherhood) along with practical parenting tips.

Mama zine foremothers Hip Mama (the parenting zine founded in 1994 by Ariel Gore), China Martens’ The Future Generation, and Ayun Halliday’s East Village Inky now have many imitators. Some are explicitly by and for ‘subculture parents’ writing about ‘the integration of parenting and radical activism.’ Many are collaborative efforts. Most are as much venues for self-expression as they are vehicles of communication.

The recently published MamaPhiles, a 132-page compilation of stories by 33 women (most of them zine editors and one writing from prison) stems from the community, a “sister” site to Hip Mama for artist moms started by Hip Mama online editor Bee Lavender. (Mama-Philes can be ordered from 9th Time Press, Box 4803, Baltimore, MD 21211). Also worth noting is a one-stop zine-shopping source on the Web, Mamas Unidas Distro (“Zines written by mamas”).

Mama Zines: Some of the Best

The East Village Inky holds your attention even if you don’t have a child—a rare editorial feat in the mama zine world. Never precious, always clear-headed, and often hilarious, Ayun Halliday tells stories from her life, which just happens to include a husband and two young children.
$8 (4 issues) from Box 11202, Brooklyn, NY 22754;