Interest in DIY gynecology — and DIY healthcare in general — has seen a recent resurgence.
Folks are tapping herbal, medical and historical information, remixing and collaborating upon it, and then making it accessible through zines, radical mailing lists or online PDFs.
The ethic of DIY gynecology is one of unabashed, legs-splayed innovation and self- empowering access to information. These publications prompt women to learn more about their bodies and share this information freely:
Get your own speculum and host a gash bash! Spend a weekend studying the ins-and-outs of your innies and outies! Create book clubs, join local listservs and go to herbal symposiums or a queer gathering (such as the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium or the Idapolooza Fruit Jam).
If you are an inquisitive and pill-cautious Alice like me, or simply don’t like blowing your green on creepy creams and pills of unknown origin, then you may have already happened upon the plethora of DIY gynecology zines that offer alternative solutions.
I have compiled some of the most useful DIY projects and advice gynecology zines have to offer.
Curing a Yeast Infection
From Take Back Your Body: A D.I.Y. Gynecology Primer (available at anarchalibrary.blogspot.ca):
Instructions for curing a yeast infection: “If you have been paying attention to your vaginal mucus, a yeast infection can be detected early and treated with organic yogurt or a clove of garlic. Put the yogurt in plastic tampon applicators (the only reason you should have anything to do with tampons) or the fingers of rubber gloves and freeze them. The yogurt-sicles can be inserted into your vagina to effectively cure an early yeast infection.
“A more animal-friendly cure involves garlic. Carefully peel the papery skin off a fresh garlic clove. Wrap it in gauze or cheesecloth, tying the ends with unwaxed dental floss, and leaving a bit of string dangling so you’ll be able to pull it out afterward. Insert this into your vagina and leave it in overnight, repeating for several nights. If the infection is severe or not clearing up, continue the treatment during the day as well, changing the garlic clove every several hours.”
Taking Charge at Your Next Gynecological Appointment
From At Your Cervix, a zine by Bender Gear — maker of sex toys and promoter of healthy sexual exploration.
Advice for taking charge at your next gynecological appointment:
• Know that you’re the expert on your own body. The doctor is just an expert on big Latin words.
• Bring a friend and a list of questions/requests
• Research in advance the tests you need/want
• Ask your practitioner to explain what they’re doing as they do it
• Know that consent is progressive, and stop or leave whenever you feel you need to.
• Choose what you wear: bring your own sheet to cover yourself and do what makes you comfortable
• Ask to see your junk in the mirror
• Be picky about your care provider. If you have options available, choose to see someone nice.
• Get some assertiveness training and use it! One day all doctors will be sensitive and nice, but not yet.
Cleansing Your Genitals and Bringing On Your Period
From Hot Pantz (later versions spelled Hot Pants), a guide to do-it-yourself gynecology written and illustrated by Isabelle Gauthier and Lisa Vinebaum and distributed by the Montreal-based Blood Sister Collective:
A Few DIY More Gynecology Resources
Zinelibrary.info: Contains health and gender-related PDFs of zines such as Fertility Awareness for Non-Invasive Birth Control (zinelibrary.info/files/Fertility.pdf)
Anarchalibrary.blogspot.ca: Features full text and PDFs of feminist health zines dating back to the ’90s including Spectacular Specula from roughly 2002.
Beautiful Resistance Distro: This was a zine and book distro devoted to radical literature in general, which distributed zines such as Body Conscious Birth Control by Ash.
Doris Distro: Distributes zines on a number of topics, but features women’s health titles such as Do It Yourself Gynecological Exam and My Body, My Limits, My Pleasure, My Choice: A Positive Sexuality Booklet for Young People. It also distributes plastic speculums.
A guide to making your own, reusable pads: Self-explanatory.