Saiya Miller led a workshop, “Graphic Content: Transforming Sex Education with Comics”on Saturday 4/6/2013 in the Harold Johnson Library at Hampshire College. The workshop, part of the Five College Women’s Research Center symposium: “Mediating Public Spheres: Genealogies of Feminist Knowledge in the Digital Age”, attracted 23 participants from the New England region.
Among the 23 women and one male, the group included: a student newspaper cartoonist, a professor who teaches comics at Pennsylvania State University, a representative from the Barnard Center for Research on Women, a Hampshire student interested in body representation in comics, three Mount Holyoke students who are part of the Mount Holyoke Zine Club, two of the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center Associates, an avid reader of graphic novels studying women and pop culture; a Ware MA resident who works with young people making Zines, a writer/editor, and a teacher.
Saiya Miller, educator and activist, presented images from early feminist zines, starting with “Sandy Comes Out”, written in 1973 – created by women in San Francisco who were “fuming at the masogonist comics world.” Miller explained that there wasn’t a place for women, so women’s comics like “Wimmens Comix”, “It Aint Me Babe”, “Tits & Clits” sought to address that gap. Miller highlighted the work of Allison Bichtel, cartoonist and graphic artist; Ariel Schrag who authored a high school comic diary, contemporary queer web Comics by Tab Kimpton, and an Israeli comic artist named Mysh illustrated haikus
- What must be taken into consideration into making a feminist comic in our current time?
- How do you reflect the values of a transformative movement?
- What is different about the digital age? What is the same?
What is Sex Education?
Saiya then talked about her transformational project she undertook while in college to create a sex education comic book called Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf: A Sex Education Comic Book. That zine, now available online covered topics like: contraception, queer sex, sex as an expression of love, sex as part of the continuum of all biologies, and a move away from heteronormative content. (Not Your Mother’s Meatloaf, issues 1-5 are now part of the library’s permanent collection and available for use!)
The culmination of the workshop was a group zine project. Miller broke the workshop into groups of 4, assigning each group 3 prompts. Each workshop participant responded to the following prompts, creating a page for each. The pages were later bound together into a giant zine: and each group was tasked with creating 4 pages to be assembled later into a giant “Sex Ed Comic Zine”, addressing the following topics:
- One thing I was told as a kid that was a myth, fact, lie, distorted truth, skewed belief
- What would you tell you 13-year-old self?
- What would you tell your 16 year old self?
- What would you tell your college self?
The workshop zine was donated to the Hampshire College library and is available for use in the archives. It will soon be digitized and available online.
Additional photographs of the workshop, and symposium, are available.
All photographs courtesy of Nancy Palmieri (2013)
Saiya Miller graduated from Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts. She has worked as an educator and activist, teaching art and music, as well as using comics and zines in workshops for teenagers. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and Vermont.