March 24, 2013

Zine: A Practical Guide to Not Telling People How to Look

Some insightful advice on being a supportive, mindful human being.

Alice Welna created "A Practical Guide to Not Telling People How to Look" as part high school project, part desire to construct a zine. The result? A six-page zine providing some of the most honest and genuine, if not slightly peeved, advice to girls on how they can stop voicing negative judgment on the appearances of their peers. Alice found inspiration for "A Practical Guide" in her everyday life through personal experiences dealing with the judgment of others and the observations she's made from speaking with friends and family who have encountered similar situations. In a way, receiving these negative judgments has been something we've all just sort of accepted as normal, and so oftentimes we don't think to modify our behavior - "A Practical Guide" is here to combat that warped normalcy and give girlhood a healthy injection of reality.
"A Practical Guide" includes advice, insight and questions meant to inspire reflection in its reader, but what I found particularly interesting were the comments included on the first page. Alice interviewed friends and family, as well as recalled instances from the past, concerning comments they've dealt with from judgmental peers. Some of these comments included "You'd be so pretty if...," "Why don't you fit?," and "Why don't you wear make up?" among other uncalled for things. Just looking at the abundance of negative comments is startling, forcing the reader to think back about whether or not we've gone through similar instances, or even if we've been the ones spewing out the judgment. "I don't think any teenage girl has to stretch her mind too far before coming up with a list of harsh words her friends have said about themselves or others," Alice said when I had the chance to ask her a few questions about "A Practical Guide." "That's what bothers me so much. This is all so normal. It's how girls 'just are.'"

But it's not, and this is made clear. Readers finish up "A Practical Guide" with a strangely refreshed feeling. Oh wait, I don't have to accept what others portray me as? Oh, not fitting into the media's idea of what I should be is ok? Yes! A thousand times yes! Throughout "A Practical Guide," Alice urges readers to ignore their annoyance with other people's clothing choices and remember that the only person's appearance you can control is your own. What's really exciting is that Alice has received feedback from readers and admirers who have shared "A Practical Guide" with friends and family, hoping they'll gain positive insight. One story Alice shared was particularly amusing and, if I'm being honest, super awesome: "My favorite, though, might have been a girl who wrapped [the zine] up like a present and gave it to her highly critical brother, who read it very skeptically and then threw it at her muttering, 'sarcastic asshole.' You know you're doing something right if you piss someone off."

Message received. "A Practical Guide" attempts to make up for the gaps left in the media; the ones that encourage girls to be like x, y, and z, but conveniently forget who we really are. And so came this zine. Advice from Alice (and completely supported by THE LE SIGH), "The best thing to do when you don't find any art or writing or movies that represent you is to make your own."

Read "A Practical Guide" here.

Written by Molly Morris