UNDIE THE SURFACE: Rachel Rolseth, creator of LADY BITS - a Zine for Vagina Havers
5 min read
by Kelsey Duchesne | April 26, 2016
What initially prompted you to create this totally fantastic (*~vagtastic~*) zine?
What really sparked the creation of this zine was talking with a lot of my friends about our bodies. When we all got around to chatting, we realized how some of us were still so much in the dark surrounding our bodies and other womens bodies around us. Some women have gone through childbearing without a grasp of what their body does, or don’t know when they're ovulating, or what their cycle was. I wanted to create a zine that was beautiful and tangible and informative. I wanted it to be something that people could actually read.
The visuals are absolutely stunning. Did you create them?
I created every image in the zine, with exception to two borrowed images from Gray’s Anatomy (note: not the show with all the McDreamy’s and Steamy’s.) Everything else is something I drew with pen or painted with gouache which is like an opaque water color. I took a few weeks to paint flowers and draw vaginas, then I scanned, put everything together, and used photoshop. The zine took me a month in a half- from the first idea to the completed product.
Do you have a favorite section or image?
The moon calendar was really fun to do. Also the two page spread with all of the different vaginas that says “Your Body is Beautiful” across the top was really special to create. I really enjoyed making all of it, but those two stick out to me. I am working on providing PDF’s of these images as well, because people have reached out with interest of using them in poster form.
Have you always had an interest in vaginas and periods like myself and some other THINXers?
Yes, definitely. I am the person that friends will come to with period related questions because it’s something I’ve always been interested in and am comfortable talking about. I’ve always been the friend to dig into those uncomfortable body-related topics. I had a few ideas for past zines, but I would come to a roadblock because I would feel like I didn't have enough authority on the subject. I thought to myself “In what subject do I have a large amount of knowledge?” And then I realized- my body! This is all new to me, talking on in a public forum about periods and vaginas, and I absolutely love it.
You reclaim the word “pussy” in this zine.
I was really excited to do that. The word pussy still has such a negative connotation that is often connected to misogyny. A woman emailed me recently and ask if I could make a special version without the word pussy so she could show your daughter. I remember thinking “If she's 10 or 11 years old, she's heard pussy, and it's probably been from boys at school using it in a negative way.”
It took me a long time not to cringe at the word “pussy,” because it’s used as an insult so often and casually.
That’s why I’m trying to create a kinder space for the word. I have a friend that will gently call people out on social media when they use pussy in a negative way. She’ll just say something like “Hey! What do hard working, fun loving pussies have to do with this?” and she’ll typically get a response like “Oh! I didn’t think about that before!”
Let’s talk about the illustrations with all of the vaginas. We’re obsessed.
I feel like some of my friends think I made some of the vaginas up in my head. Several have asked "Do all of them look like these? This doesn't seem right. Is the urethra that close to the clitoris?” You’re missing the point! They are all different! I met a woman who waxes professionally and she said “Oh yeah, I’ve waxed all of these vaginas.”
I feel like a lot of women may not get to see these types of vaginas organically, because most of the vaginas that we see are the ones in porn, which are very groomed and not always an accurate representation of all the different vaginas out there!
What is up next for you?
I’m planning a new zine right now surrounding pleasure and consent. I remember in 6th grade in health class, they separated the boys and the girls. In my class, they talked a little bit about periods, and family, but the only information we received about sex was "Don't have it. There are STD's, there is pregnancy, it will ruin your life." I remember the boys learned that sex was pleasurable and they would have it one day. They learned about condoms and masturbation. The divide in conversation is so concerning, and there needs to be a better outlet for women and girls learning about safe sex. We need a better culture around sex and consent and saying yes and saying no, and I’d love to contribute to that conversation.
by Kelsey Duchesne