Hailing from the west Catalonian hills, within the ‘hacker monastery’ Calafou (self-described as a“postcapitalist ecoindustrial colony”), feminist bio-hacking collective GynePunk has come to dismantle the prohibitive and patriarchal healthcare system that has created an uncomfortable habitat for many women who seek gynecological-based assistance. GynePunk’s goal is to create efficient and affordable medical tools to assist socially disadvantaged females with taking care of their own bodies. The GynePunk collective believes that the extraneous and personal nature of the average visit to the gynecologist is oftentimes unnecessarily torturous, and are using techniques involving 3D printing and recycling hardware to give women the power to monitor and diagnose their own bodily functions.
The GynePunk project was cultivated after one member, Klau Kinky, was enraged upon researching the history of gynecology. What she found was that the ‘father of gynecology’, J. Marion Sims, earned that title in the 1840’s by experimenting untested methods on three African-American slaves named Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey. Kinky wanted to redirect gynecology’s historical spotlight off of Sims and onto these women who were inhumanely tested on, so much so that the GynePunks moved to rename the Skene gland (named after a male British gynecologist) to the Anarcha Gland, strong in their belief that no female reproductive part should be named after a male figure.
In true ‘DIY’ fashion, members of GynePunk also want to liberate the gynecological tools that are all too often held hostage by expensive doctor’s visits and diagnostics, making healthcare something exclusive and inaccessible to less fortunate communities. It was with this vision in mind that GynePunk built a DIY hard disc centrifuge and microscope, including 3D printed pieces to hold and analyze blood, urine, and vaginal fluid samples. The results of the test are easy-to-read (color-coded) and accurate, granting accessibility to self-care for those women who are underserved and without proper healthcare options. One GynePunk member, Paula Pin, describes her group of bio-hacking feminist as “cyborg witches”, combining 3D printing and other technologies with ancestral and alternatively-based medical practices. Ultimately, GynePunk believes all women deserve equal access to self-care, and that the public health system is counter-intuitive to that belief.
Most of the DIY-designed tools and methods that GynePunk has created are open source and available through Hackteria, where they have mapped out guides to figuring out how to diagnose and even treat almost any gynecological issue. Any one with enough commitment to self-care can follow their guidelines in order to build their own DIY bio-lab, which has the potential to legitimately test and analyze infections and fluids in the same manner as a ’specialist’ or ‘professional’ would. Their developments have granted woman the ability to test for STD’s, cervical cancer, yeast infections, and even pregnancy with their own ‘DIY’ built bio-lab. They’ve also released files for 3D printable tools that their movement has influenced the creation of, like the GynePunk Speculum (created by Hackteria’s Urs Gaudenz), which presents an adequate example of how 3D printing can aid in giving women control over their own medical diagnosis.
The methods that GynePunk uses to promote self-care can certainly be deemed as dangerous or irresponsible to some, but the truth of the matter is that there are women who are in poverty, who are sex workers, who generally don’t have any access to this type of medical assistance. GynePunk is offering these underserved communities of females a way to monitor and take care of their reproductive health on their own. With the help of these affordable and accessible technologies, coupled with a strong sense of feminist community, the GynePunk movement should continue to expand and gain positive notoriety. Though they may not have medical school experience or a waiting room in their homes, the main advantage that they hold over the healthcare system is that they truly care about helping women take care of themselves.