It's a Sista Thang

A local zine for the "go girls" on its way to making Gloria Steinem proud

HUES Magazine
$3.95 cover price
$19.99 for one-year (six issues) subscription

Minnesota pro-girl smart chicks, get proud. Thanks to Duluth's New Moon Publishing, we're home to HUES, a new young women's bimonthly mag that stands tall in chunky Dr. Martens among glossy pink I'm-a-silly-girl zines like YM and Seventeen.

Liberal and radical feminists alike should hug and high-five over HUES (subtitled "a woman's guide to power and attitude"), the latest venture from New Moon, the publisher that turned tides six years ago with New Moon magazine for girls aged eight to fourteen. Those original readers have grown up, and HUES is ready for them. It's forty-six pages full of all the right stuff: creative photography that features real women, especially women of color; strong writing that gives voice to girls and women of wildly diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic positions, and pop-culture passions; and minimal ads--count 'em, less than eight pages--for other radical zines and HUES merchandise (favorite: "Adios, Barbie" T-shirt in chartreuse/black-on-white).

A funky acronym (Hear Us Emerging Sisters). Cool photography. Politically immaculate copy. An advisory board that includes Gloria Steinem. With just a little more marketing pizzazz, HUES would very likely turn me on just as much as those silly girl zines. (My apologies to all of the fantastic people involved with HUES and to my own feminist sensibilities, but it's true; HUES falls flat when it comes to aesthetics. You've got to know what HUES is about and be committed to the cause in order to crack the thing open and get to the good stuff.)

The September-October 1998 issue of HUES, "The Geek Issue," features more than nineteen variations on a theme: "Geeks in the Hood," about off-campus housing for University of California Santa Cruz computer science students; "Embracing Your Inner Geek," an essay that reminds readers "we don't shape history by shaping our thighs"; "Model Citizens: Asian American Women Sound Off on the Minority Myth," featuring the intense and articulate voices of ten Asian-American readers; and "Revenge of the Nerds," a black-and-white fashion spread showcasing mall-cum-thrift-shop chic with the text "I Will Not Conform" sounding off like a drill from the margins.

It's difficult to figure out who's writing this stuff. Sometimes it sounds like well-meaning academics striving to be hip ("Geek women are colorful, just like their web sites--brashly rejecting the ultra-feminine ideal of makeup and 'dos."). Sometimes, like in the message from founding publishers Ophira, Tali, and Dyann, it sounds like smart young womyn trying out tough: ("Sure, the beauty and fashion industries still drop their little hand grenades on our personal symphonies. But a lot of us ladies are hip to their game, and we've decided to stop playing quite so earnestly. In the Information Age, the girl with the most answers often ends up with the most toys."). Whatever the source, the lack of polish works. It lends an urgent, adolescent tone that resonates with younger teens and makes older readers nostalgic for the rawest of times.

I wanted so badly to love HUES, or at least to get some support for my mixed feelings, that I toted the magazine around with me for a week and slid it in front of a variety of women in the HUES target age group, 15-29. Here's what I got:

Jean (24): "The headlines are catchy. When I took time to read the articles, they were good." When you took time? Like, you had to force yourself? "Well, it looks boring! It's not colorful enough. And these pictures (in the issue celebrating 'geek girls') don't look like geeks." She's right. The photos show cool girls camping it up as geeks, maybe not the best strategy for making real geeks (whatever that means) feel celebrated.

Jade (15): "I wouldn't spend money on it." The articles were good, Jade said, but the look and feel left her cold.

Joann (30-something, mother of adolescent girls): "Just looking at it, I wouldn't buy it . . . the 'geek' theme is overbearing. But I read the article 'I Was a Late Bloomer'," and it was strong, with a good lesson--that no matter what, you're a person, and you're important."

Shaianne (26): "Any magazine that mentions Sojourner Truth has huge points going for it." Shaianne said HUES does a fantastic job of being itself, not a catty competitor of YM or Seventeen, thank you. HUES might have its flaws--copy that out-sophisticates its own photos, design, and headlines, in particular--but the fact that it isn't as pink or as slick as its mainstream sisters is irrelevant in an assessment of HUES's own merits.

Agreed. Lack of pizzazz aside, it's worth the $19.99 a year for six issues of good stand-alone substance ($3.95 cover price). Smart young women, even those already in an alternative groove, may not be able to feed their aesthetic sensibilities with HUES alone. But when a dose of "power and attitude" is in order, HUES is just the thing. Check out HUES online at www.hues.net, or call for a subscription at (800) HUES-4U2.

HUES is distributed nationwide. Check your local Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstores, or your local library. In true HUES fashion, HUES staffers advise: "if they don't carry it already, ask them to start!"

Ann Rosenquist Fee is a regular reviewer of books for Minnesota Parent.

 
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