Breaking Down Barriers and Creating a Safe Space in Print

Feminist Propaganda Zine Release Show

  • Copies of the zine Feminist Propaganda. Photo Emily Lee

  • Kayla Brooke up onstage. Photo Emily Lee

At the nightclub-bar La Vitrola in the plateau, Kayla Brooke’s dream of releasing her self-published zine Feminist Propaganda came true.

The zine was created as an outlet of expression for Brooke who felt it was important to tell others about her past experiences.

“A few years back, I went through some traumatic things and I didn’t really know how to deal with it and I just wrote a lot of it,” Brooke said. When she shared her work, she says, she wasn’t taken seriously. “The validity of my truth was questioned often.”

Brooke was once a student from the University of Western Ontario where she studied gender and sexuality, with a minor in film. She is now part of a Montreal-based riot grrrl and punk band called GBLNSHRK (Goblin Shark) with her friends, Persephone Pogue, James Thomas and Emma Hamilton.

Through the years, Brooke found other women with common experiences. It was overwhelming to her. She wanted to build a connection with people who had experienced something similar to her own trauma. In sharing her story with others, her readers would reciprocate with their own stories, giving each other the support and courage to talk about things that they perhaps wouldn’t be completely comfortable in sharing.

The first issue of the zine explores two elements of Brooke’s life: her sexual trauma and toxic relationships from her past.

The aim of her zine is to be an inclusive space where women, genderqueer and non-binary folk are given a voice. She wants future contributors to submit any form of media that can be easily formatted to print, such as drawings, comics, song lyrics, rants, and poetry that explore their lived experiences of feeling isolated by the world.

Looking for a venue that would be willing to sell her zine is proving to be a challenge, though. When asked if she would consider sharing her work online, Brooke stated that she would rather keep Feminist Propaganda as a print magazine in order to preserve it as a positive and safe environment than to have it be bombarded by negative and violent voices from internet trolls.

At the launch, bandmates, friends and other performers—such as the bands Pussy Stench and the 3 &1/2s—came to support Brooke. One of the guest performers at the event was Devan Kelly-Menard from the riot grrrl punk band Pussy Stench, who stated that Brooke was happy to have her contribute in future issues of Feminist Propaganda.

The riot grrrl movement is a global feminist initiative that originated from the punk music scene in the 1990s.

While performing onstage, Brooke read parts of her zine out loud to the audience in between songs. The first piece read aloud was one of Brooke’s favourite works in the zine, a spoken word poem called “The Victim You’re Supposed to Be.” It was the first instance where she created something and opened up a conversation about her sexual trauma.

Devan Kelly-Menard up onstage. Photo Emily Lee

“It was the first time where I wrote and performed something being like, ‘Hey, I dealt with rape in my life and that doesn’t mean that I’m a victim.’ I’m not this little bubble and I don’t belong in a bubble that everyone is putting me in.” – Kayla Brooke

“It was the first time where I wrote and performed something being like, ‘Hey, I dealt with rape in my life and that doesn’t mean that I’m a victim,’” Brooke explained. “I’m not this little bubble and I don’t belong in a bubble that everyone is putting me in.”

She felt that everyone she knew was sympathetic about her situation, but it wasn’t enough that they were adamant about keeping silent about the issue

Their reluctance to discuss Brooke’s trauma pushed her to realize that she couldn’t internalize the event. She had to express how much of a huge impact it had on her life and she wanted to say it loudly for everyone to hear.

Among Brooke’s bandmates, the feeling of admiration for her work was clear. For Percy Pogue, Brooke’s best friend and guitarist of GBLNSHRK, it was both heartwarming and difficult to read the zine. “I find it hard ‘cause it deals with a lot of things that happened to my best friend who wrote it. Having that trauma on paper just staring me in the face is a little hard,” said Pogue. “Because I’ve been through it with her in person, so seeing how far she’s come from it is just really good.”

The zine launch also acted as a fundraiser event for Head and Hands, a non-profit organization that aims to support the youth of Montreal that struggle with physical and mental issues, offering a variety of social, medical, and legal services.

“They do incredible work for young people and the organization means the world to me and to a lot of my friends,” Brooke stated. “I think it’s really important for communities to have organizations like Head and Hands and it’s so vital we support these organizations.” By the end of the night, they had raised $300.

To get yourself a copy of the zine and/or to submit your own work for the next issue of _Feminist Propaganda, email Kayla Brooke at feminist.propaganda.zine@gmail.com_

Editor’s note: After initial confusion during the editing process, and to protect the identities of some of the members involved with the zine, names have been removed since the piece was first published.

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