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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Vulva Is Racialized

I wrote this earlier this year and decided to re-post it here on this blog: 

"So F***ING COOL!"
"What is that?"
"Why would you make this?"

Why would i make this...? I have been making crochet genitalia pins for a while and giving them to my friends as gifts, as well as rocking my own. I have been presented with varied reactions from both friends and strangers. It is not so much the question that bothers me, but the tone in which the question is asked. There is a lot of disgust and hostility, but ultimately interest. I was recently at a symposium where we spoke about how different vulva's and internal genitalia can look and how in text books they are presented as uniform; symmetrical labia, hairless, and cut off from the rest of the body. So that night I came home and looked up diagrams of vulva's. When I tried to look for diagrams that show vulva's that belong to bodies colour, guess what? Surprise (not surprise) I found none! Now you might think, well a vulva is a vulva...right? Yes and no. Sure I've got genitalia and you have genitalia too, but historically bodies have been presented through race (racialization) and through that aesthetic differences have been assumed to justify many historical events that books don't often tell us about. So let us take a few steps back and look at the well known hottentot venus exhibition of Saartjie Baartman, a relative of the Khoikhoi ethnic group born in 1789 in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.

In 1735, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) divided humans into four racially classified subspecies: Homo sapien americancus (Amerindians), europaeus 
(Europeans), asiaticus (Asians), and afer (Africans) (Hamilton, 2008). Later, anthropologist Jonathan Marks attributed traits and behaviours to these subspecies, calling the afer “black, impassive, lazy. Hair kinked. Skin Silky. Nose flat. Lips thick. Women with genital flap; breasts large. Crafty, slow, foolish. Anoints himself with grease. Ruled by caprice.” (Hamilton, 2008). Another example of this is the French scientist Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) who also based his findings on the taxonomy of Homo sapiens and depicted theafer as “marked by a black complexion, crisped or woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose. The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe; the hordes of utter barbarianism.” (Hamilton, 2008). From this established approach to race in academia in the eighteenth century, there is an acknowledgement and acceptance to the validity of the racialization of traits and the hierarchy based off of it. The Hottentot Venus exhibit recreated and brought these ideas throughout Europe, it specifically reinforced and reflected race based on the social hierarchies that existed. The presentation and representation of black bodies in contrast to white ones placed emphasis on differences, and more specifically differences of physical anatomy. The anthropological rhetoric represented the Hottentot as primitive, inferior, secular and uncivilized  and from this made distinct connections between the Hottentot and animals. Labeling black bodies as primitive attributed animal characteristics to them, such as animalistic instincts of reproduction  “…Buffon stated that this animal-like sexual appetite went so far as to lead black women to copulate with apes” (Gilman, 1985). Academic travelers went further as to say that the black woman also show external signs of being primitive, from “Steatopygia a protruding buttocks resulting from the accumulation of fat, and what was then called the “hottentot apron” the elongated labia of the genitalia” (Moudileno, 2009) (see fig.1). Saarjtie Baartman’s exhibit relied heavily on the discourse created by academic and scientific elites. These assumptions  presented as fact romanticized ideas about non-white populations, and constructed a false identity that according to Gareth Knapman (2008) pushed non-white populations to a status below that of white Europeans. By labelling these populations as animals, an ideology of inferiority became common thought.

fig 1 the external genitalia of the Hottentot Venus, standing upright

200 years later and this is the only image of the genitalia of a black African woman?! So when someone asks me why I made this I tell them that I am serving to represent my own genitalia, sexuality and ultimately myself. And of course I'm gonna make a pin and make sure its all up in your face. Additionally I love making people feel uncomfortable...for a good reason though! I believe that when we are the most uncomfortable is when we are in a space to absorb knowledge and have conversations that we might not otherwise have. We must keep in mind that knowledge and academia are never depoliticized spaces and they are entirely selective, meaning there is choice in what is included or excluded given the political and economic climate...think of it like the news, there is always another part of the story we don't hear and we have to be critical and ask why. Knowledge as a form of power is inaccessible for a variety of reasons and it has always been used as a tool of inclusion and exclusion....but that's a whole other conversation! It's hilarious to me when it falls on the ground, and someone will be like "oh, you dropped something!" they go to pick it up for me, but immediately hesitate and retreat once they see what it is. I always say "Ooups, I dropped my vulva!" smile and walk away. Sometimes you have to laugh or cry at the realities of this world. Both are viable options. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Vulva Is Ugly

I was talking with some new friends of mine about our genitalia and one of them said 
'ugghh mine is ugly, it's all stretched out because I had a baby...' I hesitated with my response, feeling uncomfortable and unsure of what to say. Then I finally responded 'oh please! no way! All genitalia is beautiful...!' but I wasn't sure I even believed what I had said. I was not sure why I felt so uneasy about the answer I had given her. 

A number of months ago a friend sent me a text saying: 
U kno wat? I've got a really pretty vulva. Ppl I've fucked told me, so I looked myself and I think so too!
I responded:
LOL!That's amazing! I love when ppl love their vulvas!

I felt a strange sense of ease in agreeing with her about beauty, because we are supposed to love our bodies, it's normal. Right? These two separate conversations got me thinking about my own genitalia, and you know what? It is ugly and I don't always feel comfortable engaging with it. I was fooling myself writing all these wonderful words to describe some imagined flawlessness about my body, that I really didn't believe. It is discolored, my labia minora are two different sizes, and even worse sometimes its aroma catches me off guard like '...shit is that me?', sometime its itchy, has sores and bumps. Not cute. And you know what? I am learning (reaaalll slowly) to be cool with it being ugly. Mainstream narratives of self-love make me feel like I have to love myself in a very specific, kind of glazed over way. I have to learn to ignore my uglies and convince myself that they are in fact beautiful. Or else something is wrong with me. When I do not love myself at all times I am somehow deluded by false media representations, misguided and have a distorted view of reality. I need help. But nah, a more robust narrative of self love needs to be present and locating it in the many many ways that we are taught to feel undesirable/unworthy.

Coming into self love happens in so many different ways, whether in the reality of ascribing gender to genitalia, coming from body and gender dysphoria that can make our relationship to our genitals really fucking hard, for aesthetic reasons that suggest genitals should be and look a certain way, the locating of honor and worth to sex and genitals, navigating the realities of HIV/STI stigma or whatever else, thinking that beautiful=good and ugly=bad is a super narrow framing of self love that totally ignores the contexts that influence the complexities how we live in our bodies. However we work towards finding a sense of solidarity, peace and love with our bodies is always real and always valid. We should all be allowed to experience our bodies as we naturally do and have supportive spaces to talk about those realities - the hard, the wondrous, the pleasure and so on. To my friend who thinks their vulva is ugly, I am sorry for trying to convince you otherwise. Don't worry I am right there with you. Your vulva is ugly, my genitalia is ugly and it is what it is. Why not hold space to honour all the ways we feel about our bodies instead?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Vulva Has Discharge

I am a total self diagnoser. I am hypersensitive about changes in my body and as soon as I notice anything new or different I hop on the Internet and try to figure out what is going on. Especially with vaginal discharge. Discharge is the fluids produced by the cervical glands (cervix is at the top of the vaginal canal, like cap!) that keep the vagina clean and moist. So there is no need to use any kinds of soaps, perfumes or douching mechanisms. Those things are not always the vaginas friend and can easily set it off balance and irritate it. When I notice changes in the consistency (how it feels or its texture), smell, colour or quantity of my discharge that are uncommon to me I get into a bit of a panic. In a feverish search for some relevant information I typed in 'Vaginal Discharge' on goolge search and this is what came up. A lot of the information available doesn't ease my fears because there is a lot of talk of what is and isn't 'normal'. What I find to be normal for my discharge is often labelled as 'abnormal' and this is messy, scary and often confusing language. Regularly my discharge is far from odourless and white/clear. Sometimes it is stringy, thick, it can be thin, it always has an aroma, when it dries on clothes it can look yellow, it can darken in colour or it is straight up cloudy...so does this mean that I have reason to worry???

If we assume that there is a standard 'normal' or 'abnormal' discharge we should also ask how realistic this standard is, and what is it really being judged upon? While I can not for sure answer that question, I do know that vaginal discharge is different at different times of the month depending on how our body works. For example, if someone has a menstrual cycle, are pregnant, ovulating or breastfeeding their discharge will vary in quantity, amount, colour and texture as a result. And if someone is pre or post menopausal changes in the amount discharge is largely attributed to hormonal fluctuations. Or if someone does not have a cervix, for reasons not limited to a hysterectomy [his-tur-EK-tuh-mee] (removing of the uterus, but can also include the fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix) this may also affect a persons discharge. If we are on antibiotics, taking medication, birth control, or are turned on sexually these can all contribute to changes in discharge. The list really does go on! So you see, these generalized assumptions on what is and isn't 'normal' discharge doesn't account for the particular circumstances of our bodies.
But! There is always a but! There can be changes in discharge accompanied with specific symptoms such as;
- Fishy smell
- Pain in abdomen
- Itching, burning, redness, or inflammation of vagina/vulva
- Vaginal pain after or during penetrative (something entering the vagina) sex

- Increased need to pee
- Rash or soreness

In such circumstances it is suggested that you check in with your doctor (if you have one) cause they could be signs of an existing Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), vaginal infection or other complications. Remember that some people can be asymptomatic (show no signs or symptoms) of having an STI, so trying to get tested regularly is one of the ways in making sure one is not present in the body.

Yellow Frothy Discharge
ex. Trichomoniasis

Bloody Discharge
ex. Non-menstrual Bleeding
Green Discharge
ex. Gonorrhea
White Clumpy Cottage
Cheese Like Discharge
ex. Yeast Infection
Dark Brown Spotting
ex. Shedding of Endomitiral
Grey Watery Discharge
W/ Fishy Smell
ex. Bacterial Vaginosis

A lot of the information online does not make the distinction between changes of worry which are accompanied by distinct symptoms, and the natural state of our individual discharge. So I think that getting to know vaginal secretions is totally a way of understanding, knowing and personalizing what 'normal' is. Go Ask Alice offers some really body friendly advice on the topic as well. Personally, I have started to practice a self-check every now and then, where I stick my fingers into my vagina and seriously just smell, feel and taste my discharge. And if anyone has ever gone down on you, well, now you know exactly what you've been missing! By doing this I can know whether or not there have been any changes and I can easily become very familiar with my discharge. For example, I know when I don't drink enough water my aroma changes, when I eat to many sweet things it thickens and closer to my period it darkens! So instead of frantically searching the Internet for answers that often scare me beyond belief or tell me I am not normal, I can now work on developing my own sense of normalcy to ease my sense of panic. I would also like to acknowledge that not everyone has or can access a doctor and this can cause issues in establishing a continuum of care, and tracking medical history. So if you find yourself without a doctor, this can also be a really affordable and easy way to take your health into your own hands...or fingers!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Vulva Isn't A Vulva


When speaking from our own experiences it is also important to acknowledge that we all make reference to our bodies using different kinds of language. When I was younger I remember calling my vulva my pussy, crotches & precious, but as I got older I realized that the language I used to talk about my body was only respected in certain communities and spaces. This personal language did not translate well into institutional spaces such as: hospitals, clinics & schools. While some of us may not use or even relate to highly medicalized terms that assume gendered norms and contain histories both beautiful and violent, knowing theses terms and what they physically make reference to has helped me to navigate systems that do not respect, understand or know my experience. A part of my self-care and self-direction is having the language to understand the conversations people have about my body. It has also given me the ability to take back and reclaim standardized words and use them as I wish. It has helped me in being able to describe to doctors where I am having problems to avoid oversight, it has helped in talking to lovers about intimacy and teaching them about my own body, and talking about sexual health. Being able to flip between two languages (code switch) allows me to tread in and between lived and assumed realities.

This does not at all suggest that this is how all vulvas and internal genitalia should or do look because vulvas and internal genitalia very greatly in shape, form, colour and sizes and belong to people of all genders! This required a lot of squatting over a mirror and a bit of research, but I think I've almost got it figured out!
  • Prepuce:
    Also called the clitoral hood is similar to the foreskin of a flesh penis (I like to think of it as the house for my clit). When turned on the clitoris becomes erect with blood and the prepuce pulls back exposing the clitoral gland. Like a diva stepping out on stage the clit is then ready for some attention.
  • Clitoris (clit):
    Is the pleasure center! It is super sensitive because (apparently) it has more nerve endings than the rest of the body that is why rubbing, sucking and playing with the clitoris can be so much fun.
    Myth: No folks we do not pee from the clit
  • Urethra:
    This is where we pee from! Located just beneath the clitoris (I think thats where the pee confusion comes from) it is the opening of a tube that connects to our bladders and allows us to pass pee. When people talk about urinary tract infections (uti) it is in relation to germs swimming up the urethra that's why it is suggested to wipe front to back!
  • Labia Majora:
    The large outer folds of the vulva or the lips! I think of them like the blanket that covers all of the external openings. They are hairy & coloured on the outside and smooth on their inner sides.
  • Labia Minora:
    Also called the inner labia, they are two flaps of skin located on either side of the vaginal opening and between the labia majora. They are shaped and coloured differently from person to person! Random fact: labiaplasty is cosmetic or reconstructive surgery for you labia!
  • Vagina:
    Is often confused with the vulva. The vagina is an internal sexual organ and we only see the opening from the outside. It is a muscular, stretchy, mucus membrane canal that connects to the inner reproductive organs & is caped by the cervix (so you don't have to worry about anything getting lost up there) It is sometimes where menstrual blood, discharge, lubrication and on occasion babies pass from! When aroused the vagina gets engorged with blood (making it sensitive), it swells, lengthens, lubricates and opens up. (the lower third part of the vagina, closer to the opening, is where all the sensitive nerve endings are) The vagina is great at cleaning its self and has a friendly and dynamic ecosystem of bacteria that keep it healthy!
  • Fourchette:
  • Is a fork in French. But in relation to the vulva it is where the two labia minora meet and close off and is located just above the perineum (the space between your vulva & anus) Also this can rip during child birth or penetrative intercourse...ouch!
A lot of information to digest and consider, but in short sometimes a vluva isn't a vluva because our experiences shape the way we engage with, understand and label our bodies. Understanding that there are wider systems that do not acknowledge the level of the individual, knowing the bio-medical, cisnormatove language of bodies can hopefully help in explaining, challenging and addressing issues on a larger scale. It's a fucked up reality of repeated violence that is experienced within medical institutions, and the fact that it ends up being the individuals responsibility to educate service providers as opposed to accessing care is messed up and exhausting. And while out of reductive language blossoms a new kind of language that is more relevant and meaningful, there is still lots of work to be done within institutions to make care accessible.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Vulva Is Socially Responsible?

My mom is in the process of writing her comprehensive exam for her PhD (go girl!) and I have had the privilege of having some really interesting conversations with her about her thesis development and research she has come across. One thing she noted is the discrepancies between the ways in which people talk about and understand themselves, and what they actually do. For example, I assume the role of a sexual health educator in my professional life and it would be assumed that I never have sex without protection, nor do I engage in ‘risky’ activities in my sexual life because those are the values according to that professional role that I should assume. But realistically, the other roles in my life may not exactly match up to those values. Does that make me dishonest? And what prompts me to act differently?

I have been thinking about how the values associated with the different roles in my life influence how I think about my sexuality and act on my sexual preferences. More specifically, my role as a sexual health educator. I have to admit to having a hand in disseminating and perpetuating certain values around sex/sexuality that I would call limiting and I hadn’t until I started more actively exploring my thoughts, thought about it. But where do these ideas even come from?

The different roles we assume in our everyday lives are intentionally intertwined in public health information because health institutions tie population health measures to certain ‘values’ such as, caring for your fellow person, honesty, loving yourself, integrity etc. For example, public health tells us that condomless sex is bad, anal sex is dangerous; not getting tested is not fulfilling your social responsibilities and not disclosing your HIV-positive status is dishonest among many other things. These suggestive yet morally coercive policing measures are embedded in values associated with other roles in our lives that create the illusion of full autonomy in sexual behaviour. When in reality I am also acting to fulfill a state enforced mandate with limited options in exercising my sexuality freely. My sexual desires, health & sexuality become linked to social responsibility inducing feelings of guilt, shame and fear to engage in the kinds of sex I want to have, because I am repeatedly told they are bad.

So in regards to the discrepancies between what people do and say, of course people (including myself) are more likely to lie about what they do because if we are honest about our lived realities we are assumed to be dirty, dishonest, careless and ultimately socially unacceptable.  We are socially reprimanded for having sex! This ongoing train of thought has forced me to acknowledge that I too have internalized these body and sex negative messages to a point where it impacts my sexual experiences. Sexual health education should not be about enforcing values or certain types of behaviours, but about empowering people in their personal choices. We need to be able to educate one another outside of formal institutions where we have the power to share knowledge around ourselves, but first we have got to start having these conversations and more importantly listening (in the ways that we can). 

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Vulva Is an Ethical Slut?

I have been reading this book called The Ethical Slut: A Guide to Infinite Sexual Possibilities by co-authors Dossie Easton & Catherine A. Liszt. It is a guide for those who have ever dreamed, imagined or thought of having all the sex, love and relationships that they want.

Speaking from personal experience I have always felt dysfunctional in what I will call a 'conventional two person relationship' For a long time I floated from relationship to relationship with a lot of resentment and anger toward my partners, both sexual and emotional, because I was consistently placing myself in a position that I did not want to be, that is with one person exclusively. Far too often I would displace my wants, needs and desires because I assumed that they would not be well received or understood by my partners, but more importantly because I did not have the language or knowledge to express why I felt the way I felt. I have always believed in experiencing people organically, and allowing my relationships with people to develop to their natural points. This is not a new concept. It is evident when we look at all the people we surround ourselves with, we have non-sexual friends, best friends, funk buddies, people we have strong chemistry with, people we connect with on a spiritual level and the list goes on. Different people provide us with different experiences, life lessons and fulfill us in a magnitude of ways that I believe one sole person alone can not do. All those relationships function on an organic level between one or more persons, and I do not believe that just because I enter a 'conventional two person relationship' that I should have to limit, stop or sacrifice my organic experiences with others.

Having multiple relationships is often imagined and experienced as a bad and selfish thing and I can understand why. People can lie, cheat & hurt resulting in a damaging, abusive and dysfunctional relationship; but that is not how to have a fulfilling and nurturing relationship in any given circumstance! In the book The Ethical Slut, the authors talk about how to create an environment where you can work through feelings of anger, jealousy & insecurities to build happy and healthy relationships with as many or as few people as you want! Despite what some people may think it extends far beyond just having sex, my wants are to be able to connect with people on multiple levels whatever they may be, and to be able to share my mind, body, spirit and vulva in a way that I feel safe, comfortable, secure and self assured doing so. It takes a lot of energy to work towards building these kinds of relationships, but I am ultimately investing in my own happiness. I have learned that what you put into bettering yourself translates into your experiences with others! And who wouldn't want to be happy with those they care about?

I am not saying there is one kind relationship that works because we all want and value different things. But I know what is wrong is being in any kind of relationship where your own happiness, wants, comfort, safety and feelings are not respected. So invest in yourself and be selfish...in a positive way! Think about what kind of relationships, sex & experiences make you happy and work towards establishing them. Think broadly about what these words mean in respect to your life and how their meanings can shift. Better yet write them down so you never forget! Do all the research you can! I have to acknowledge that we all face different barriers in having the ability to do this whether they be internal or external so always keep safety in mind! I am taking the steps to redefine  monogaME means, looks like and how it is exercized by me. I am exploring how to respectfully establish relationships grounded in consent, communication and honesty where all people involved are given the space to voice themselves. I want my genitalia to be a happy and ethical slut!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Vulva Is a Feminist

I recently had the privilege of connecting with a wonderful young woman working for a feminist blog called Sexul vs Braza in Romania! The blog is used as an online platform to disseminate information and have conversations around bodies, sex, sexuality, relationships and sexual/reproductive rights for women by making accessible and relevant videos. I was absolutely thrilled to see how artistic mediums can be used to open up dialogues, and to see how other people outside of my immediate surroundings can relate to the vulva pins. So of course I had to jump at the opportunity to ask how she and her organization engage women in conversations about themselves and she so kindly allowed me to share her answers with y'all. So peep the brief Q&A session I had with her!

Q: Why did you think it was important to start/be a part of a feminist sex ed website?
A: There is almost no sex ed in Romania, and thus my home country has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in Europe. There is no gender equality and no tolerance for the LGBT community. I grew up with no sex ed myself and spend years putting pieces together with regard to how my body works and how bodies work together. I also had interest in a video project after doing some theater in Germany, where I worked for a year as a teaching assistant. It's actually at my school in Germany where I first learned about sex ed as a school subject. I was also inspired by people like Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian. A few months after getting back to Romania, in October last year, we started working on the project. I am a feminist and wanted a comprehensive modern approach to sex ed. Being an independent project means we are in the privileged position of not having to compromise. 

Q: What is the web series about?
A: Our videos and articles cover questions about our bodies, sexuality, relationships, LGBT, teenagers' (sexual) rights, STDs, contraception.  

Q: How do you engage self identified women in discussions around sex?
A: Well, I hope I get your question right. We address ourselves to teenage girls, so our target are not women. However, we want to encourage women to share their experiences with us, because that would help the girls. We are therefore interested in doing a bunch of google hangouts with mostly young adult women, to talk about different topics. First on the list is menstruation and the whole dynamic around menstruation that was experienced as a young person in the family or in the peer group.

Q: What does a vulva mean to you, and how does it fit within the context of the web series?
A: I guess it is quite central, as we do have a feminist approach. We have a video about the anatomy of the vulva coming up, which is why we asked you if we could use your picture of crocheted vulvas to illustrate how they can be diverse (you can't exactly use photos of real vulvas in Youtube videos). Thank you very much for saying yes! Next we're gonna release a video about the clitoris. It's about a sort of conference where the clitoris is being awarded the Coolest Organ Special Prize :). So, you see, vulvas are important for us! 

I have to be honest, I haven't kept up with my Romanian...ever, but check out the web series V de la Vulva with a brief Tuly Maimouna feature! The video is used to make a point in showing the diversity of female external organs. Understanding and talking about bodies cuts across cultural and linguistic borders and we have a lot to learn from one another in terms of experiences and knowledge. We should aim to realize the value in our stories and see the benefit in sharing them with one another! 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Vulva Is Poetic

I was recently asked how I started making crochet vulvas. Well, I felt it necessary to make what I called an artistic personal rendition of my body. It first started as an imagined idea of how I thought my genitalia looked, but as I started making them for friends as gifts, and having more conversations around genitals I wanted to know what different genitalia belonging to different bodies actually looked like. Not to my surprise the only ones I could find were vulvas belonging to white cis women, you can see in detail the finds of that venture that in a post I called artducation: vulvas? So I came up with this exercise that serves as a reference to accurately rendering my own genitalia. Find what works best for your range of motion and mobility, whether that looks like lying on your back or squatting, place a mirror (you can also use one with a stand if holding it is not possible) and look. I chose to immortalize my genitalia by writing a poem, but the possibilities are endless as to how you choose to look at and understand your genitalia. You can draw, make a voice recording or sing a song, but whenever you are ready take a look.

We will all have entirely different feelings about our bodies, and looking isn't actually always a thing people want to do, which is perfectly fine too. In my experience locating the reasons why I choose to look have been super helpful. For me, looking is to get to understand my body in a new way. For a lot of reasons ranging from body dysphoria, sexual violence, and eurocentric standards of beauty, looking at my body was hard. For a minute my body either grossed me out, was anxiety provoking or just made me sad. And while those feelings are for sure still there looking is part of my oscillating process. Furthermore, looking has helped me in being able to identify when my body is going through changes. If I see or feel something new in or around or on my genitalia I can easily identify it and helps in having more direct and self-directed conversations with my doctor around my health. Key to looking is understanding, and understanding in a way that makes sense to you. This exercise is a process of developing your own language and imagery around your body and it acts as a huge fuck you in challenging normative ideas about bodies. Personally, feel empowered as I am taking control of my own health, honoring my sexuality, my blackness, my gender -ultimately the many facets of myself. Here is my super corny poem:

Vulva is...
When closed my left labia majora stands taller than the right
They are a dark brown almost black
and are larger at the top
Like a wave my labia has ripples
Two rolling waves toward my canal
My two labia fit together like a puzzle embracing each other

Kinda corny right? lol. Have you ever looked at your genitalia, and how would you choose to immortalize your body? 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

'My vulva is my princess'

I believe it is really important for people to have the freedom, space and choice to express why they value their bodies in a way that is free of unjustifiable moralizing and outside of other peoples personal ideas of absolute 'rightness'. It is through the support of these kinds of dialogues that we open ourselves to learning about the different spectrums of choice, and open our eyes to the endless possibilities in which we can experience our bodies in a way we feel safe doing so. Her/his/their/sie/hir/ey/zie or how ever you choose to identify, having the ability to claim ownership of your body, I believe, is the first step in creating more body positive internal and external dialogues. A primary value that crochet vulvas stand to represent. They are a tool that welcome people to share why they wear their vulva and what their vulva means to them as a way of facilitating conversations around that value. It is not easy to share stories that put us in a position of vulnerability, so I have to warmly thank this wonderful woman for sharing!

"Because I am proud of my vulva,
and I think that society tried to make women ashamed of it.
But not I! I think she is pretty and is a crucial part of who I am.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

What is a Vulva?

The other day I was asked what is a vulva? While the question at first seemed to be simple enough to answer, the more I thought about it the more complex the question became…really what is a vulva?

After reflecting on this question for some time I came to realize that the ways in which our vulvas are represented, interpreted and treated are very much influenced by the ways in which our bodies are able (or unable) to navigate through various social spheres/norms. I started making these crochet vulva pins in response to the shame, misinformation and silence enforced around people with internal genitalia talking about and understanding their bodies in respect to how they live their lives. In wearing my crochet vulva I have had the privilege of engaging in some insightful conversations about the multiple meanings, understandings and personal relationships people have with their genitalia and navigating their health, or how they experience other peoples genitalia. This blog and the crochet genitalia support a personal effort to create a platform where people can talk about and reclaim what is rightfully theirs, and where wearing, caring and talking about genitals through personal experiences are valued components in sharing knowledge around our bodies.

It is difficult to address the question as to what a vulva is, because you simultaneously have to ask what a vulva means and how that meaning shifts in different contexts. So my personal answer is my vulva is endless, it holds different privileges, disadvantages, beauties, demons, experiences and the list goes on. I wear my crochet genitalia as a way to represent the multiple and intersecting social, political and biological falsehoods and realities that surround my experiences. So I have to ask, what does genitalia mean to you?