Vulva Diversity Awareness Project
I (Juli Watson - artist and writer from Sunderland, UK), am in the early stages of planning a new artwork with the central theme of vulva diversity awareness and am seeking participants who are willing to email me a photo of their vulva! Before I go any further I just want to define what I mean by vulva so there’s no confusion; the word vagina and the word vulva often get misused. The vulva is the external sexual organs that can be seen plainly with the naked eye - the labia (lips). The vagina is only the internal tunnel-like part between our vulva and our uterus (womb) that can only be seen or felt by opening the labia. (I really hope this does not come across as patronising!)
Let me start from the beginning and explain.
I believe that we live in a culture that oppresses women. One of the ways we are oppressed is that our bodies are politicised, censored, sexualised and controlled by others (often men). We are not supported or encouraged to talk about our bodies, especially our vulva. We are made to feel embarrassed or ashamed. When our bodies are not hidden away, when they are available for titillation, the media often only represent “porn star” genitals that are plucked, shaved, waxed, neat, tidy and almost identical. There is of course nothing wrong with this but the prevalence of this one-size-fits-all stereotyping denies the existence of any other choices. As a result many women become worried that their genitals are abnormal if they don’t look like what they see in the movies etc.
One other example I’ll use of the policing and sanitation of women’s genitalia is menstruation - a totally normal, natural, monthly occurrence for many many women. It’s hidden away from sight and discussion by pretty, discreet sanitary wrappers, scented products and euphemisms like feminine hygiene!
So… I want to address the real wealth of differences between women’s vulva! I want to highlight these differences by showing vulva that are old, young, wrinkly, smooth, hairy, dark, light, asymmetrical, pierced etc. I want all women to feel that their genitals are normal and acceptable and to be able to discuss them freely and openly.
OK, so what I plan to do is convert an ordinary board game – Guess Who?- by replacing the illustrations of different faces with photographs of real women’s vulva. I’m intending to give each vulva a woman’s name or initials. This can be participants’ real first name, middle name, initials or any name they choose, if they wish to remain anonymous. Mine will be there too, I’m not asking women to do anything I wouldn’t be comfortable doing myself!
I have a few photographs that have been submitted already (huge thanks, ladies!) but what I need more of is photos from women of colour. I can’t represent diversity with only white women’s vulva after all…
Please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Facebook (Juli Watson) and please please share this information with as many different women from different backgrounds as you can.
Just a quick mention of a couple of things that further contextualise my project. I am proud to say I have just performed in a local production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and also was privileged to be part of artist Nicola Canavan’s Raising the Skirt project, both of which allow women to unite and take pride in, and control over, their bodies.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
My personal art and poetry website: www.juliwatson.weebly.com
Info on the Vagina Monologues: http://vaginamonologues.co.uk/