Vulvacious set out to create a space for vagina talk through artistic creation. A space where people could talk openly about sexual health, pleasure, body positivity, and sexuality. A space where people could use any art supplies they wanted to create their vulva-inspired art. We wanted to create a space within the Vagina Monologues experience where people could laugh, stare, glare, whatever at the vaginas we all made together. I think our project was definitely a success. We didn’t necessarily have the turn out that we wanted, and our project warranted criticism that we weren’t anticipating, but I find that all of these “barriers” only proceeded to make our group stronger.
Before our project even began we started vulvacious.tumblr.com; a small blog where we could share any information or art that was pertinent to our project. On this blog we received a small amount of criticism regarding our project and the Vagina Monologues. A fellow tumblr user said that we were cissexist and to say that vaginas were the be all end all face of femininity was to be highly restrictive towards gender.
I’d never personally understood my vagina that way. I did not see it as my one source of femininity—the tiara to my princess persona—rather, I saw my vagina as something shameful. It emitted embarrassing smells during exams so that I had to squeeze my legs tight. It made sounds during sex that made me want to just sit down and sweep myself under a blanket so my partner couldn’t touch me. It was wiry and hairy, and when I tried to shave it, my labia got red and inflamed. My problems that I had with my vagina and the misinformation from high school that I got about my genitals were what provoked this project. Not my cissexist view point. Not my need to support a gender binary. Not my delineation between trans women and “females.” Juliette and I understood this critique, though, because we had worried about that exact reaction. We understood the exclusivity that we may be broadcasting by trying to get people to draw and color and paste together vulvas. So we changed our wording and we reached out to people to try and make our event more verbally inclusive.
While not many people showed up to the first event (what was supposed to have been our only event), the people who did gladly made several vaginas in varying colors and materials. We had an array of artistic implements to choose from: yarn, magazines, fabric, glitter, markers, colored pencils. People filtered in slowly, but made great work. My mother even came and made two vulvas: one from scraps of National Geographic and the other with luxurious pink fringe. Jawaun invited us to a Freedom Alliance meeting where we could solicit the group to make some art. Juliette and I went there carrying our box and bag of materials, and displayed it for the group. They were all fairly tentative to join in, often citing their very limited knowledge of such a region. Juliette, the master negotiator that she is, managed to get almost everybody (a little over a dozen people) to at least color in some of the vaginas that we had copied from Tee Corinne’s Cunt Coloring Book. Having made a fairly hefty stack of vaginas, we were fairly pleased! Especially since so many different kinds of people made such interesting, unique vaginas. The next week, we were able to stay at the Women’s Center and have people come in and make more vaginas. Only two people came to this last hurrah, but we were very happy that they had the opportunity to make some art with us.
The day of the Monologues, Juliette and some of the other folks participating in the show helped hang the art up for people to see as they walked into the ballroom turned theater. It added another layer of depth to the show for people to see artistic representations of vaginas. We received a lot of compliments from people who were viewing the vulva gallery, and a lot of people expressed regret that they had not gotten to make any art. As we had restaged the event twice following our small turnout the first day, we tried not to guilt them.
While our attempt to become as inclusive as possible and to generate a giant amount art was limited, I think Vulvacious has learned from this experience.
We’ve learned the importance of language in creating a safe space for people of all genders and sexualities, but we have also learned to stick to our guns and our own passion for women’s sexual health, positivity, and education. Though it’s wrong to glorify the vagina as the root of femininity and womanhood, there needs to be a space to talk about vaginas (and not just at the gynecologist’s office with a sheet over your stomach and rubber gloves inspecting you, nor in hushed tones with your best friend when you start developing a rash). Generating a space for vagina talk and art creation is important, and next time, I think we want to branch out our activism to include more people.
Maybe that means just having a general genetalia art-making event, or maybe that means prefacing our vagina art event with a discussion that will deal with any concerns or help to incorporate suggestions, but whatever happens, the art that was produced was amazing. I am so proud of Vulvacious, and so happy with how everything turned out!