Jamie McCartney is a British artist who created an art installation piece of plaster casts called “The Great Wall of Vagina”. On his website are images of the entire installation along with the motto, “Changing female body image through art”.
His website explains the art piece:
The 9 metre long polyptych consists of four hundred plaster casts of vulvas, all of them unique, arranged into ten large panels. McCartney set out to make this project as broad and inclusive as possible. The age range of the women is from 18 to 76. Included are mothers and daughters, identical twins, transgendered men and women as well as a woman pre and post natal and another one pre and post labiaplasty.
One of the many reasons I love this piece is because when I directed/ produced a production of The Vagina Monologues in 2006, one of the comments repeatedly mentioned by women who auditioned was how much they hate what their vagina looks like. Of course, they were actually referring to the vulva — as does this art piece (hint: the vagina is the inside part). Only one female at the auditions, a 24 year old girl who had not yet had kids, said she loved how her vulva looked like a beautiful flower. One woman said her “vagina” was ugly because she’d had 4 kids. Frankly, I don’t think most women know what our genitals are supposed to look like because our perception is skewed by porn and skin mags.
The month that I turned 40, I took pictures of my vulva and saw my vulva for the very first time ever (not counting when I was in labor and saw my daughter’s head crowning in the mirror up on the wall of the delivery room — I’m nearsighted so I couldn’t really see it). Turning 40, I wanted to love my body visually the way I adore my body sensually. But seeing my vulva pics, I burst into tears because she looked so different than what I envisioned. My fair-skinned legs and rosy labia were not what I’m accustomed to seeing because most of the women I’ve seen in erotic photos are tan. Then there was my clitoral hood and the shape of my inner labia…. I thought, “WHY would a man like this?! I look so different….”
I deleted the pics immediately. But I took some more pictures the next day, and this time I didn’t cry. I guess I was getting accustomed to seeing what I look like. I sent the pics to 3 guy friends I could trust to tell me the truth, and each one said my vulva was beautiful. I was really annoyed with myself that I felt I needed that kind of validation, especially from men, but men know vulvas, and they know what men like in a juicy yoni. And frankly, if I’d sent my pics to other women, would the women have been grossed out because they likewise have little clue what “vaginas” are supposed to look like?
As I continued to look at my vulva pictures (and even took some more), it was amazingly empowering to know and love my genitals and not compare mine to women in porn or magazines. Aside from the genital grooming that is prolific in erotic photography, many people don’t realize that porn performers often have cosmetic surgery to alter their genitals, including labioplasty to make the labia smaller or conform to some ridiculous notion of what labia are “supposed” to look like.
This brings me to my point and yet another aspect of healing women’s body image. There is NO one way a vulva is supposed to look. Every vulva is different. Comparing vulvas is like comparing snowflakes — each one is unique and beautiful in her own way.
I think McCartney’s work is very important for a few reasons. One, he cast all sorts of women when making his plaster art, and you see all sorts of labia shapes and sizes (and piercings!) represented. Also, because the work is in plaster as opposed to photography or paint, race is not an issue, and all the vulvas can be appreciated without an ingrained idea that “white chick” vulvas are more pleasing to the eye.
Check out McCartney’s website to see the many other panels in this art installation.
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While I spent part of the day not engaging Twitter trolls who think women’s rights is an imaginary complaint of uppity feminists, I wanted to see what you think about being a woman, or for the men, what you like so much about the woman in your life.
Ladies, what keeps you going in spite of the struggles you face in society, in religion, in the media, the workplace? What are the best aspects of being a woman?
Guys, what keeps you interested in women (even though we drive you crazy)? What is it about a woman that ignites a spark in you?
What is it about Woman that inspires you? Please leave a comment, detailing what you love about being a woman or love about women!
After a morning spent enlightening the GOP teabaggers on how ridiculous they are (nicely, of course), I once again had the yearning to run away from all this election craziness — this time coupled with an insane desire to join a nudist colony… just to be free of all the status symbols society deems important or even crucial to life.
I commiserated that I haven’t lost enough weight to be naked in front of others in public and was promptly reminded that we women cannot self-sabotage ourselves by heeding the KoolAid of media and culture’s negativity.
So onward I go, through this catharsis that has me by my she-balls.
(Click image to enlarge.)
In response to a reader’s comment on my usage of “his-story” and “herstory” in this post, I wrote this little response.
The terms herstory / her-story are used in feminist writings for the precise point of underlining exactly how much women have been left out of the masculine narrative of world events, i.e., history. I even wrote a musical called Herstory, dealing with this very topic. (To hear a few demos, go to my personal site: TrishCausey.com.)
It’s not so much an etymological derivation I’m going for with his-story or even her-story, but rather a play on words, making the distinction between history — the narrative we’re taught in school and take for granted as “accurate,” and his-story — the overwhelmingly one-sided male version of world events that its orchestrators consistently and conveniently left women out of — all of which echoes the current political climate, a.k.a. the 2012 elections that prompted the right-wing Republicans’ “War on Women,” that caused Democrats and social activists to ask the question: Where Are the Women?!
As they say, the conquerors write the history books, and this is true whether it is women being left out or the “other side” of the story being obscured to make the conqueror look better.
When I was in school, “World History” consisted only of the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, a paragraph or two on ancient China, a hiccup on India, and then jerking off to the wonders of Columbus and the so-called “discovery” of the “New World.” This hardly covers all of world history, and frankly, it’s a piss-poor job of a “survey” of history as well.
Archeological evidence around the world proves women were involved in all aspects of society: fighting in battles, doing daily domestic chores within a tribe or clan, leading religious activities as priestesses, acting as medical healers of an entire community, and officiating in government as judges and/or chieftains or queens. The fact that the emphasis on goddesses is so prevalent on ancient cultures sheds but a glimpse of the extent to which women might have been revered.
From the rise of the imperial, patriarchal regimes of antiquity through the 20th century, women who really wanted to participate did so in “drag,” dressing as a man in order to fulfill their purposes in helping with a cause. Women who were openly independent, standing up to oppressive religion and government or fully participating in teaching the next generation of girls the women’s mysteries, were accused of Witchcraft and summarily arrested, tortured, and executed in one form or another, burning at the stake being the favored method in Europe, while hanging or even stoning was preferred in the “New World.” And yes, I wrote a musical on this as well: Witchcraze.
Women have not only been erased from history (i.e., Hatshepsut’s statues in Egypt de-faced and her named chiseled out of the stone to erase her legacy — quite literally), but women have not been accurately included in history to begin with. In medieval Europe, the tradition of not even recording girls’ names when they were born was common — because girls were not important. But boys’ names were recorded because property, family names, and inheritances were passed down through the male line under the patriarchal societal system.
When I participated in a medieval historical re-enactment group, the name nerds were sticklers for making sure everyone’s persona had a legitimate, verifiable name for the time frame and nationality of the persona. As a 12th century Scot, getting my name “approved” was difficult because females were not recorded except in extreme cases, such as a wealthy (for Scotland) couple only having a female child survive to adulthood. (The fact that the Scots at this time were also on the last legs of independence in their indigenous culture, which had an oral tradition not a written language, made documentation difficult as well.) So while they wanted me to prove my name did exist, I told them to prove it didn’t. They couldn’t — because women were not included in the male narrative from the beginning.
I’ve often asked the question — Name 5 famous women from American history. Most people name Betsy Ross, Harriet Tubman, maybe Eleanor Roosevelt, maybe Susan B. Anthony. But no one ever gets to 5 names. They rarely get to the 20th century when women finally earned the right to vote in 1920 and marched in the streets for equal rights in the 1960’s and 1970’s! That shows just how much women have been excluded from the important facts in American his-story. Our brains are drilled on the male war mongers, the American Revolution, the male Founding Fathers, the male presidents, even the male dissidents, the bloody American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Women were there! Obviously, we were there, or none of us would be here today! But in the common narrative of history, “Where Are the Women?”
It is time to re-write the history books — not as his-story, or even solely her-story, but to tell the tale of all of us.