Here are some things I love: All girl groups, poetry, alternative publications, the Internet, collages, and girls spilling their guts. Illuminati Girl Gang gives me all of these things, plus the squeely, happy feeling when you find a space filled with women who make art, and who make you want to make art. Admiration feeds into inspiration for creation (I’ve just read this zine and already I’m spitting out rhmes!).
Illuminati Girl Gang started out as a girl in her room on her laptop. Gabby Gabby, a poet, girl gang leader, and a personal Tumblr favorite of mine, began with a well-worn idea: Why not make a website for female artistic expression? Although already done time and time again, the need is continuously pressing. As Gabby noted in an interview with The Art Cake, in the world of literary publications the ratio between female and male contributors is overwhelmingly biased towards male writers. So instead of lamenting what she saw, Gabby created what she wanted to see: A female-centered space for art and poetry. What began as a curated webspace has now extended into a printed publication that has developed a cult following in the alt lit Tumblr fed girl world. And the hype is well deserved — Gabby has fostered an impressive roster of female writers and artists, both established and up-and-coming, such as Roxane Gay, Lucy Tiven, Grace Miceli, and Molly Soda.
There are too many things for me to crush on here. First, let’s comment on the power of the interweb and the long-heralded rise of women creators. As Gabby herself points out in her interview, the beauty of the web is that anyone can create their own website, can write their own blog, can practice poetry on their own Twitter account. The user-driven nature of the web and zine culture is uniquely powerful for women (and for people of color), who before had to fight through white male driven cultural outlets in order to be heard. IGG is more than an example of “made for women by women on the Internet” spaces. It is the closest thing that I have felt to a “sisterhood.” This girl gang affirms its members, supports their work, and shares their art.
While there’s nothing particularly new about this idea (female-only spaces), there’s something different about Illuminati Girl Gang. Part of it, I think, is a credit to Gabby’s aesthetic sharpness. Most “all girl” publications tend to fall on cutesy excessiveness in their design. Yet IGG has a cool detachment that doesn’t fall prey to the clichés of female artistic expression (too much pink). Unlike other comparisons, like the much beloved Rookie, Illuminati Girl Gang doesn’t gorge on tweedy gushiness. Instead, the clean feel of the publications somehow raises their legitimacy, or at least lets the content speak for itself.
The poetry in the upcoming issue of Illuminati Girl Gang felt like a live tweeting of my emotional newsfeed; these are the internal dialogue 20-something not-a-girl-not-yet-women, insecure, sexually (in)active, mildly depressed, self-absorbed, detached, and bemused writings that I’ve been waiting for. They are deeply imbedded in that icky territory of “feelings” without being exhaustively self-referential. These are women still figuring it out; “it” being something they cant quite define but they are constantly looking for in Google searches and beds of strangers. It’s self-consciously millennial, using the aesthetics and language of Internet speak to further find the “it-ness” of life in the banal texts sent at 2 a.m. and the drunken diary entries on Text Edit. It’s raw, it lingered in my head, and it made me weirdly proud to be young, female, and a writer.
Written by Ana Alvarez