Tag Archives: femininity

My life as a Guinea Pig

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.

You also need to read: An incredibly powerful zine, Ladybeard, also by an Australian PCOS zinemaker. It’s no longer in print but you can get a reissue of the original zine here.

*(For the record, other PCOS symptoms can involve complications with conceiving, period weirdness, gained weight and a tendency to type 2 diabetes).


Accidental Polyamory

no contact details
I got my copy from the zinemaker

A personal account of the zinemaker finding herself in a polyamorous relationship with her long time girlfriend and a new mutual girl friend. The zine talks about the experience and what it all means.

Aesthetic: A basic hit-the-ground-running kinda look. It’s all handwritten, roughish layout, simple cut and paste with a found pattern cover and stencilled writing. It’s a zine at it’s most pure and raw.

Not pretentious: Whenever I hear the word ‘polyamory’ I groan because it’s such a ridiculous word (and/or concept). This zine, however, is written simply and isn’t trying to be anything profound or posturing to some some manifesto. It’s just one person’s account of what it’s like to find yourself in a situation for which there’s “no blueprint”. The zinemaker writes about how it all happened, how the new dynamic was negotiated, and how, three months in, it’s going successfully. It’s just a personal ‘so, this happened!’ kinda story.

Repeat, not political: The zinemaker doesn’t feel defined as a polygamous person in the same way that, say, her lesbian-ness defines her. She doesn’t romanticise polygamy or brand it as some awesome brand new lifestyle everyone should check out. Nor does she think polyamorous relationships are inherently radical, but open to flaws and dysfunction as much as anything else.

Curious: Definitely, polyamorous relationships have that mystique about them because they’re not the society norm. And they must surely be emotionally challenging. It would be cool if the zinemaker did a zine revisiting the situation in twelve months time and then, say, 24 months time to see if the new configuration of the relationship is working, if it’s failed, and/or how it’s informed her ideas on relationships generally. I’d love to know the challenges and how you introduce your two girlfriends to your mum. Are there other zines like this about polyamory out there?

This zine could be better if: Nothing. It’s not trying to be anything it isn’t – this is just personal writing, copied and stapled. This is how you make a zine, people. Unmediated. Honest. Perfecto.


Coral Coogan

Chris Mikul
I received this zine as a lovely surprise in the post, you can get yours contacting the zinemaker
cathob (at) zip (dot) com.au
PO Box K546 Haymarket NSW 1240 Australia

A small memoir of the zinemaker’s aunt, an aspiring actress and one of the most interesting people he knew growing up.

You know you’re reading a family history when: The opening sentence of the zine reads ‘Coral Maureen Coogan was born in Sydney on 28 March, 1931…’

I have to admit: I wasn’t sure how personally invested I was going to be. And after reading the zine, I do remain largely ambivalent.

There are evocative moments: The description of the grandparents house gives you that sense of exploring someone’s family home from another era, with cabinets and trinkets and spooky parts of the house.

The most poignant aspects of the zine: Reading about how inconsolable Coral was the last night she shared with her sister in their childhood bedroom before her sister married the following day. Coral never went on to marry herself (or move out of the parental home). It was also sad reading how the family handles her diagnosis of (and experience with) cancer, something not spoken about and not discussed with children.

This zine reimagined: maybe this would appeal to me more if the dry autobiographical details were removed and the writing was condensed just into a few significant aspects or impressions. As it is, the zine has that local geneology centre desktop publishing feel to it and is conventionally presented.
However, the zinemaker has chosen to adopt this tradition to remember his aunt by, so that ‘something of her survives’, and now it does. I’m just not sure how it works for me as a zine.



feeunke (at) gmail.com
PO Box 41 Flinders Lane VIC 8009
I got mine for AU $1.70 as a cost price reissue available here

I ordered this zine because:  I was keen to read another person’s story of their relationship with their eating disorder and in what way the monstrosity shows its hideous face having experienced an eating disorder myself.

Before I read the zine I thought: “God, I hope this is a healthy thing to do.” I discovered that it was healthy reading because the zinemaker’s perspective is a healthy one: she manages to portray both sides of Anorexia including what the illness takes away from the host and what it has to offer (I use the term ‘host’ here to convey the leeching nature of Anorexia).

It may seem ridiculous but an eating disorder not only destroys, it delivers. It delivers to the person, in a simple little solve-all package, a sense of control. It equates not eating with control of a life that seems out of control. Anorexia will find its power through a person’s vulnerabilities, their hardships, trauma and much more. The illness has no remorse in enslaving a person’s mind and body and locking the ‘real’ them behind thick frosted glass, incapable of protest.

This zine is gruelling:  Really, bloody take-a-few-days-to-read kind of gruelling. I’m not sure if this is because my personal experiences bare an uncanny resemblance to that of the zinemaker’s. But it is a frustrating, depressing and crushingly accurate representation of mental illness as a whole.

The best (and worst) thing about this zine is: The author takes you through each aspect of her journey with ‘Kenneth’ – the name she eventually gives her negative mind that I quickly felt an undying hatred towards. As the reader, it’s like watching a sad film where you know the main character is in trouble but you can’t do anything about it. Instead, you continue reading because you become attached to their story and need to see them get out alive.

Don’t read this if it’s likely you’d find the subject matter triggering: It’s acknowledged in the zine as containing triggering materials. This is done in light of the disordered mind always being ‘on’. It will happily take anything, related or otherwise, and twist it into something negative that nourishes unhealthy thoughts. As such, the zinemaker promptly warns vulnerable readers to put down the zine and walk away. The zinemaker also includes handwritten entries from her diary: the voice of Kenneth, counterattacked with her voice of reason. For me, this conveys the two sides of the mind: the side that is ill and seeks death and the side that is healthy and promotes life. It is frustrating at times to see such awareness of reason and yet Kenneth is still considered a legitimate way of thinking.

I recommend this zine to: Those who seek insight into the world of an eating disorder. Such reasons may originate from knowing someone who lives with one or simply because education is key to recognising and preventing an eating disorder – in others and in oneself.

The zine contains large bodies of text and randomly placed “dialoging” as the zinemaker calls it. While it is all text and no pictorial content, it remains captivating because as you read, you begin to appreciate it as a hugely personal, honest and gracious story. Having written and published ‘Kenneth’, the zinemaker is taking ownership of her recovery and placing a huge fuck-off roadblock in front of Anorexia and Kenneth.

What I found irritating about the zine is:  The overly optimistic ending where ambition is warranted but the possibility of relapse is not acknowledged. I think that it may have been premature to claim to be “free of Kenneth and Anorexia” while still technically being in treatment, albeit 2.5 years in, and one appointment away from discharge. It is difficult to ignore, given the persistent nature of eating disorders, the very real possibility of a trigger occurring in the future. However, one can only be aware of this possibility – and the zinemaker’s positivity towards nurturing herself and her future is the only method I’ve found beneficial for myself.


& an open response from the zinemaker:

In all honesty I haven’t read it in ages and it brought up so many memories reading your review. It was interesting to read a review from someone who can identify with the content and looking back at the ending now, I can see that it might seem overly optimistic.

That is really how I felt, I felt so free and hadn’t ever felt that way before because, as you can probably relate, that voice is always there, even before you get diagnosed with anorexia. So for the first time, I was facing a life with Kenneth in control and I did feel optimistic.

I loved the way you described anorexia as “a simple little solve-all package” in terms of control because that’s so exactly correct. It is isn’t it? It presents itself as the best solution, the best option for you as a ‘host’ (again, perfect terminology), like there will be no other option as good as having the control that anorexia presents. And I loved that you described it as ‘having no remorse’ because it’s such an utter bitch of an illness, like really, if you met anorexia as a person it would just be the embodiment of horrible-ness.

Yes, I have relapsed, which comes with the whole recovery deal, but I got through it and kept going. The last time I relapsed was in 2012 when I was in Eastern Europe in the middle of winter by myself staying in hostels with people I didn’t know in countries where I didn’t speak the language and really missing home. That sucked but one of my counselors told me that when you leave treatment, you put on a backpack that’s empty. The first time you relapse, you put what you learnt from that into your backpack and keep walking forward. Next time it happens you can unzip your backpack, take the lessons from last time and put them to use, then do the same thing over again if it happens again. That metaphor has gotten me through those relapses as well as writing. Writing always helps.

Tomorrow’s Machine Today #3

Emma D.
PO Box 4 Enmore NSW 2042
I picked up my copy from Sticky instore
price: AU $3
available: http://takecarezines.org

A zine about growing up as a girl, where each important moment is punctuated and informed by music. Starts in childhood and finishes in teenage years.

This zine captures that feeling of: everyone betraying you as they happily develop and evolve into teenagers but you’re somehow left behind, vulnerable and bewildered.

The best part about this zine is: the structure and writing: the zine is condensed into snippets, like mini chapters, memories in time. It’s simple and it works perfectly recalling memories of growing up. Each little moment is consummately written and you feel like you’re there in the backseat of the car yourself.

And what’s even cooler is that as the zinemaker grows up the formats of music change too: from records to cassettes to CDs being ‘the future’. It’s funny to read family arguments debating the future of the music industry from the 90s.

You are the perfect demographic if: your first album was a record, and you owned one of those yellow Sony walkman in the late 80s. You will absolutely love this zine and it will immediately make you think of all the pivotal moments in your own musical growing up. I could completely relate to being considered ‘too young’ to be allowed to operate the record player, the most precious and delicate mechanical instrument in the house. And then the weird contradiction of being presented with your first record as a gift, but needing someone to put it on for you.

You may need to take a chill pill before reading this if: you were the first person to discover Nirvana in the world/ your friendship circles and you felt like you were the only person to genuinely understand them in the world/ your friendship circles and their anti corporate sensibility resonated with your own political impulses. This zine will piss you off, because it’s written by a little sister who discovers Nirvana via her older brother. That’s fine, but she describes it as changing the trajectory of her life, so I was expecting to read something intense. Not so. Being introduced to Nirvana in this context is to be introduced to converse shoes. I’m pretty sure that’s not what grunge was supposed to represent – brand name shoes. Face palm. Was this zinemaker partly responsible for the death of grunge? Can we even be friends, now?

Don’t you hate it when: zines have to obey the multitudes of 4 law and you have too many pages at the end. Hey, only teasing. This is a great zine. The presentation is pretty standard but the writing is what you want it for.