In the midst of the haze of winter break, I sat down with second-year student Ashling Sharry to discuss the Gender and Equality Society’s (DUGES) new zine. Sharry, who is acting as the informal creative director of The ZORA, studies Political Science and Social Policy at Trinity College Dublin. The zine, named The ZORA after Zora Neale Hurston, a Black American writer who strongly influenced feminist writing and black liberation, is set to release its first issue in March.
Sharry tells me that the idea for The ZORA was conceived during Michaelmas this year, saying: “We really just wanted to create space for not just our members for everyone on campus to engage with feminist media and writing.” Despite the strong publication culture at Trinity, DUGES wanted to create something more approachable. The ZORA is extremely open to any kind of submission, accepting essays, think pieces, critical responses, reviews, poetry, photography, digital art and visual art. Sharry adds that this accessibility is what sets The ZORA apart, saying that while there are many political publications on campus including the Women and Gender Minorities Review, The ZORA submissions are “not a super high academic standard” and are open and inclusive to people’s skills and abilities. She explains that the zine felt important because “with feminism it’s very easy to think that we’ve reached a point where it’s fine now, but we know that’s not true. We wanted to make it known to the people that read it and submit that it has a goal, to spread the message of feminism across campus and to further the work of the gender equality society”.
“With feminism it’s very easy to think that we’ve reached a point where it’s fine now, but we know that’s not true. We wanted to make it known to the people that read it and submit that it has a goal, to spread the message of feminism across campus and to further the work of the gender equality society.”
Sharry also shares more about the name of The ZORA and how being named after Zora Neale Hurston informs the thesis of the zine. Sharry says “we had wanted to name it after an author, someone of importance that we thought hadn’t been given the recognition they deserve because of their gender”. She adds, “throughout history women have been ignored, and this is a place where we’re going to be publishing people’s work. We want them to get the recognition they deserve”. Neale, a strong feminist and activist that Sharry and the rest of the DUGES committee admire, represents what The ZORA hopes to display and add to the Trinity College Dublin campus.
“Throughout history women have been ignored, and this is a place where we’re going to be publishing people’s work. We want them to get the recognition they deserve.”
This will be DUGES’ first proper publication. Sharry shares she has had past experience with publications but that for a “lot of us this is the first time creating something like this”. She reflects on the challenges The ZORA has already faced as well as anticipating future hiccups. The amount of interest is a fear for Sharry, with her saying that “you can feel that people are interested online but whether that will be actualised, whether people really submit” is a concern. Additionally, the fact that, at Trinity, there feels there is already publication for everything, causing Sharry and the rest of the DUGES committee to worry that The ZORA is a product of them just wanting to make something. Sharry says “we didn’t want to make something that we just wanted, we definitely wanted to make something for the wider campus”. The actual logistics of the zine have proved challenging thus far. The ZORA is planned to be printed, which Sharry tells me always comes with its own set of unique ways things could go wrong. The committee is also planning to release the zine online, Sharry adding that this entire process has put the committee’s “academic and technical skills to the test”.
The ZORA has its own Instagram account where the submission deadlines are outlined along with the statement that there is “no theme but The ZORA is political”. Sharry says that this statement is “to acknowledge the barriers that still hinder against women and other gender minorities today”. She explains that as feminism is inherently political, you cannot separate it from “the struggle for liberation and the fight for equality”. She adds that “it’s very easy to say ‘we’re making a non-political thing’, but if it’s about people’s struggles, people’s difficulties, people’s lived experiences, then that’s going to be something political”.
“The zine will be a place where community is created.”
It is Sharry’s and the rest of the DUGES committee’s hope for The ZORA to live on for years to come. Sharry tells me that, “ideally it would be carried on by future committees of DUGES and it becomes something that’s just on campus”. Adding on to that, she has aspirations that the zine will be a place where community is created, saying despite sounding cliche she wants to build a “group of people with similar interests who just want to create a piece of feminist work. That’s the goal”.
I ask Sharry how the feminists of Trinity can become involved in The Zora, to which she replies that the best way is to simply submit a piece of work. She hopes to alleviate the worries of potential submitters who fear their work may not be good enough stressing that The ZORA will be “very much trying to stay true to the nature of the zine. It’s casual. It’s all being made by us on committee as a labour of love”. Sharry also adds that submitting to the zine is a great way to build connections with other feminists across campus and is an exciting opportunity for anyone looking to share their work to an audience of eager readers. The submission deadline for the first issue of The ZORA is February 16th and all information regarding submissions can be found on their Instagram, @thezorazine.