'Lady Bits' Zine By Rachel Rolseth Redefines The Way We Talk About Vaginas
It's no secret that even in the modern day, the female body is still something to be censored rather than celebrated. Centuries of stigmatization mean that women's bodies are largely uncharted territory, but Rachel Rolseth's zine Lady Bits intends to demystify the vagina — along with all the other, well, lady bits. Tackling everything from anatomy to birth control, the "zine for vagina havers" is 36 pages of full-color illustrations and educational information encouraging readers to explore their own bodies. Needless to say, it's a feminist's dream come true. (Also needless to say, things are about to get NSFW — prepare accordingly.)
Rolseth, an artist and illustrator from Minneapolis, Minnesota, tells Bustle that she was inspired in part by the lack of accurate, in-depth information available about women's bodies, especially in the notoriously problematic American sex education system. "It's amazing how little we actually learn about our bodies in sex ed and how many grown women are in the dark about their cycles," she writes over email.
As an example, she recounts an experience with vaginal discharge, which she assumed at the time was an indication of illness. "Before I learned about Fertility Awareness, I was certain that I had some rare STD that would be named after the doctor who discovered it," she writes. "It turns out [the discharge] was just the egg white cervical mucous that means you are fertile. How did I get to be 24 years old without knowing that?!!"
Accordingly, Lady Bits focuses on encouraging readers to know their own bodies — what's healthy, what's not, and how that may appear differently from person to person. The passage describing the vulva, for instance, includes a space for readers to draw what theirs looks like, and later on, a page describes how to examine your cervix.
"I tried to be intentional about... making it interactive. ... I hope that women and girls take the time to do those exercises and connect with their bodies, because that is what Lady Bits is all about: Learning how to be the authority of your own body," Rolseth continues.
In addition to anatomy, Lady Bits includes a number of empowering quotes about the female body and information regarding birth control options and the importance of consent. Although the magazine has received a positive reaction overall, Rolseth told Indy 100 that she's come under fire for not including the pill as an option. Similarly, Mic points out that some have criticized the inclusion of a lunar calendar, saying that it implies menstruation is somehow connected with the phases of the moon. (It's a popular belief, but there's little known scientific basis for it.)
Despite the criticisms, Rolseth stands by the content, telling Mic that she doesn't see the harm in exploring a "spiritual connection" with the moon. "Nowhere in there do I say that the moon causes or controls menstruation," she told Mic.
Although Lady Bits is intended for anyone with a vagina, some will undoubtedly note that most of the information in the current issue is aimed at cisgender women. However, Rolseth writes that she would be open to a future issue focusing on the transgender community. "It was important for me to make Lady Bits from my own experience, and I don't have any experience being trans," she explains. "I would be thrilled to collaborate with some trans/genderqueer writers for another zine."
In fact, she writes that she has plenty of other ideas for continuing Lady Bits. "I have a million ideas for future zines, some of which are related to sex and health, others are related to the environment and permaculture. I would love to do another zine all about consent," she says.
Education, body positivity, and beautiful illustrations? Be still my feminist heart. You can check out the current issue of Lady Bits at Rachel Rolseth's website.