My life as a Guinea Pig
I got my copy at Sticky for $2
somewhatobzine [@] gmail.com
A little zine about taking part in a PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) study
She got paid for science: Here’s a zine where the zinemaker actually participates in a scientific study for a bit of cash and to increase our knowledge of the human body. Have you ever heard the horror stories of people going on those weird medical trials? Neither have I! (Those survivors have been relocated to unknown bunkers of government facilities). This zine is the story of a medical test survivor. Except the tests are kind of banal.
Sign me up: The zinemaker has PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which made her a successfully qualifying candidate. She never quite knows what the tests are trialling, or whether she’s in the placebo group (she has her theories). PCOS is super common, a kind of collection of abnormalities associated with menstruation and hormone production that does not necessarily include massive pain and suffering. Plus let me add this, this zinemaker is fortunate, her periods are regular, so she doesn’t need to ‘manage’ her PCOS. (The Pill is pretty much the only solution FYI).
Freak of nature: And here we have it. PCOS is an interesting syndrome for a woman to have because it can include the ultimate physical threat to western femininity: that is, hairiness*. Most dramatically, facial hair. This alone is enough to prompt the question ‘what is normal’ as far as gender identity but is amplified when the zinemaker has scientists ask her to access body hair according to a chart; “then later when I take off my clothes I can tell the researcher is checking to see whether I’ve been honest…”
The zinemaker is pretty ambivalent about her condition, and has a healthy appreciation of her body, including all its stretch-marks (also measured and recorded). She writes about perceptions of femininity and conventional beauty norms and speaks of the politics of the body…all relayed in a clear and informative manner. You do find yourself pondering what is normal, what IS healthy.
Look Away: The funniest part of this zine is the cool little drawings scattered throughout, illustrating some of the more unusual moments of being…a science experiment. And the anecdotes are impressive. For instance, storing urine for a 24 hour passage of time in a sharehouse. Or having a blood pressure monitor on in the library which periodically beeps with visible tubing. Perfectly described. And I am seriously loving the collage use of the guinea pig photo.
Was it Worth It: Anything that ends up as a zine or a hilarious story to tell can hardly have been a complete waste of your time, but when I read at the end what the financial renumeration was…I was like…’woah, seriously?’. It’s not a lucrative side project. There’s more altruism than dollars going on here.
The real nightmare story in the zine: There is an account of experiences with a naturopath the zinemaker describes, referred to her by a FRIEND. Oh my God. Bad, bad bad.
What’s Wrong With You: I love that the zinemaker is cool with her body. We all fall somewhere within a broader spectrum of ‘human body’ and it’s OK. Maybe your ovary is growing extra follicles and maybe it’s not. And that ladybeards are cool too.
*(For the record, other PCOS symptoms can involve complications with conceiving, period weirdness, gained weight and a tendency to type 2 diabetes).