Riot Mamas

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;

Fertile Ground editor Stacey Greenberg doesn’t seem to be trying to change the world–she dabbled in cloth diapers for a few weeks but gave up after trying disposables on a road trip. Beginning with her happy, earthy cover drawings, Greenberg creates a space for friends to write about sleep, poop, breasts, singing, cooking, decorating, and prenatal workouts for those who don’t like to exercise.
$8 (4 issues) from 2084 Court Ave., Memphis, TN 38104

The Edgy-catin’ Mama gives “unschoolers,” both parents and students, an opportunity to connect, communicate, exchange ideas and successes, occasionally show off, and rant about the larger society’s misunderstanding of homeschooling.
$8 (4 issues) from Nina Packebush, 1102 Hiatt Ct., Sultan, WA 98294

In Esperanza, Jackie Regales focuses on her unexpected new role as the mother of infant twin daughters — and on the small things she can do as a new mother to support feminism and fight consumerism and racism. Her zine stands out for being straightforward and comprehensive about an experience (motherhood) that is often presented as chaotic.
$8 (4 issues) from Box 33441 Baltimore, MD 21218;

Placenta Zine tells it to you straight. Recent highlights include a look at the baby-raising gear you don’t need though advertisers say you do; taking your baby to a punk show; and a regular column titled Rocker Moms vs. Soccer Moms. The zine also features a strong (and refreshing) dad presence.
$3 (1 issue) from Rosa-Maria DiDonato, 4412 Avenue A, #204, Austin, TX, 78751

Red Diaper Baby focuses on “radical parenting and activism” via grassroots politics with the kids in tow. Regular columns include The Political Palette–a mix of food politics and recipes–and Back Page Rant by editor Becky Ellis. A special treat was the red glitter left on a recent issue’s lightly star-dusted cover.
$8/yr. (4 issues) from Box 23111, 355 Wellington St., London, ON, N6A 5N9;

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