With the popularization of blogs and personal websites in the past decade, there has been a sharp decline in the zine phenomena. I have longed for the days when the magazine rack at independent bookstores was lined with photocopied feminist zines, daring to say the things mainstream magazines cannot. Thankfully, there are still some zinesters willing to invest the time and money needed to undertake the taxing task of putting out a zine. Radical doula Laurel Ripple Carpenter is one of these few remaining idealists (however, a blog version of her zine does exist at blog.cuntastic.org).
As the name would imply, Cuntastic deals with “all things cunt,” meaning anything related to reproductive health, pregnancy, sexuality, etc. As Carpenter is both a doula and a mother, the zine has a large focus on pregnancy and children. The premiere issue, focusing on pregnancy and placentas, delved into multiple women’s experiences of being pregnant, including Carpenter herself. Carpenter shares her own pregnancy journal, giving an honest account of the concerns, fears, and elation a new mother faces. Another new mommy also gives an account of using a midwife assisted birth as opposed to a hospital birth, noting her reasoning behind her preference. As someone who has never been pregnant, or contemplated pregnancy, it was fascinating to read multiple graphic descriptions of the experience of being pregnant and giving birth. The zine also deals with the squeamish issue of new mothers taking placenta pills or eating their placenta, offering instructions both for tablets as well as meals meant to complement the inclusion of placentas.
The second issue, the menstruation issue, deals with women’s’ experiences with their menstrual cycle and alternative menstrual products like cups (i.e The Keeper) and sea sponges. The zine explores menstrual related traditions such as “menarche parties” for girls who receive their first periods. (There is also a humorous story from a male writer on his first time having sex with woman during her menstrual cycle.)
The third issue, the radical parenting issue, deals with feminists (and other left wing folk) becoming parents. The issue asks such key questions as how to not gender condition a child, how to go without disposable diapers, and generally how to raise a child while sticking to your ideals. It is fascinating to see the issue of motherhood explored by feminists as this was often a murky issue for the movement in the past. It is inspiring to hear about women using their feminist ideologies to raise their children. Within the issue, Carpenter also details her experience going into labor while at a DNC protest.
Overall, Carpenter has created a compelling and likable feminist zine with Cuntastic, in which she answers such questions commonly discussed by feminists (menstruation) and questions that need further exploration (motherhood and pregnancy.) I hope to see future issues of Cuntastic soon and hear more about Carpenter and her new life as a feminist mother.