How I Found My Voice through Cupsize, and Zines in General

The excellent performance artist and filmmaker Miranda July wrote a blurb for the new book Riot Grrrl Collection.

Miranda wrote: “What zine-making taught me about writing: 1. shock yourself with honesty. 2. the truth is messy. 3. be brave like her. I use these skills every day.”

Miranda got it right. Writing a zine taught me the same thing, especially to shock myself with honesty. And to laugh on the page. Zines taught me how to just say it and be brave.

I came alive as a woman and a creative person in my early twenties in New York City when I co-created an independent zine called Cupsize with my friend Tara Emelye.

Tara and I met at Amherst College, but neither one of us was happy there. We both left for schools in New York.

I transferred to Barnard College, the women’s college of Columbia University. Tara transferred to SUNY-Stonybrook.

We reunited in New York City and starting in the summer of 94 while I was living in a summer sublet in the East Village, next to the Pyramid nightclub on Avenue A, we wrote and designed our own zine. We were inspired by other women zinesters during the halcyon Riot Girrl years in New York during the mid-90s. This was two years after Bikini Kill appeared in Newsweek in a story, “Revolution Girl Style” about Riot Grrrl, a “new feminist voice for the video-age generation”–wow, we were the “video-age generation”!

Cupsize lasted for five glorious issues. Most of those issues had launch parties.

We stapled-and-photocopied and cut-and-paste and we could write anything we wanted. Here is the letter from the editor for issue number three.

Writing Cupsize was an important step along my path of independent creativity that led me later to publish To-Do List magazine, start the quirkyalone movement, become a leading advocate of self-marriage, cofound StyleMob, create the Tango Adventure and the Turned-On Living program, and more.

Tara and I called our zine Cupsize because we both had ample bosoms. We wanted to reclaim them with a wink.

The fact that our bodies were curvy was just one of our commonalities. 

We would often put together the zine in her parents’ home,  in their kitchen on Long Island, and stay up late giddy on our creativity, and the fun of printing out our little essays and artwork, cutting and pasting together the pages. We then photocopied the originals and assembled them like little books with staplers.

There was something very special about a little print magazine, something far more precious than the Internet, which is so easy and ephemeral. Certainly zines were more soulful than Instagram. 

We sent Cupsize out in the mail to our subscribers and other zinesters we met through Factsheet Five, the legendary magazine that reviewed zines around the world (and brought us together with many other zinesters through trading relationships).

Tara and I were great together because we egged each other on, whether we were writing about the taste of grape soda or visiting a peep show in Times Square, bisexual chic, or feminism.

A version of a Cupsize essay, “What I Learned at College: On Feminism, Class, and My Delayed Diploma” appeared in the Voice and then in Women’s Studies Quarterly published by Feminist Press of the City University of New York.

In addition to my work for the Village Voice, I worked at Self Magazine during my time in college, at the 350 Madison Avenue Conde Nast building where Vogue and Glamour were also housed. I had a glamourous job in college, but Cupsize was far more important for my development as a writer.

Through Cupsize I developed a voice.

Our writings from Cupsize are included in this awesome new book, the Riot Grrrl Collection.

This energetic book will inspire all freedom-seekers and lovers of handwritten creativity. Each page of the book is an actual reprint of a zine page, with all the human touches from the creator.