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Cunt; pussy; flaps; vag; fanjita; vajajay; box; cooch; gash; beaver; clap trap; clunge; hoo hoo… whatever you want to call it, your vagina is a work of art. Literally. British artist Jamie McCartney made the sculpture above; in total he made moulds of 400 different lady gardens, including the parts of twins, transgender women and those in that invisible category in society; women over the age of 30. His aim was to make vaginas more ‘understandable’ and to stop the increasing number of ‘designer vagina’ operations taking place each year by demonstrating that pussies come in all shapes and sizes. 

There are so many myths about vaginas, it almost makes my head spin: They smell, they are all the same, too much sex makes them loose, virgin vaginas are the holy grail of tightness etc. It’s all bullshit – your vagina is awesome as it is and you don’t need special feminine wash or to worry about how you taste when your partner heads south. Our vaginas are self cleaning, stretchy marvels and an orgasm is better for a headache than paracetamol. That doesn’t quite make up for monthly cramps but it’s a start, you know?

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There is a scene in Sex and The City where Charlotte has to keep a vagina journal because hers is depressed; she claims that she thinks they are ‘ugly’ and this down there despair is echoed by lots of women who aren’t on BFF terms with their bits. It’s no surprise really, when you think of the ways that our vajajays are portrayed; weak, passive. How the ultimate insult to a man’s masculinity is to call him a pussy. How we say ‘fuck you’ in an argument, implying that being fucked, the receiver, the vagina is bad and worthy of derision.

I asked twitter what names they like/loathe for their lady gardens and the response was amazing – terms like ‘pussy’ and ‘cunt’ were favoured whereas anything that infantalises (‘minnie’ ‘hoohoo’) or implies something disgusting/deviant were out (‘gash’ ‘wound’ ‘whore hole’) Turns out women don’t like it when you suggest that their vaginas are childlike or nasty; who’d have thought it?

As a feminist, it is interesting to see the ways in which female bodies and sexuality is policed or shamed in society and the linguistics surrounding this most ‘feminine’ of female parts is fascinating. Men want to control it at any cost; either by claiming it, naming it, reducing it down to a childlike entity that they have power over or by shaming it with terms like ‘whore hole’ or ‘gash.’

insultsTo me, it’s as if guys spend so much time talking/rapping about sex and trying to get into our knickers, only to then turn around and use what they find as the ultimate insult – your vagina is both the best and worst thing to happen to a guy apparently. Let him in and it’s good times a go-go and judging by a bunch of rap lyrics, ‘poppin that pussy’ is on every guys to do list and yet despite this, calling a guy a cunt or some other gendered insult is as bad as it gets. Colour me confused by this 180; are vaginas good or bad? WHO KNOWS? We could argue that this sums up many perspectives on women; objectified, good for sex but ultimately inferior.

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Vaginas are subject to so much hate in society; from a linguistic point of view in the language that we use to describe them; our harshest words to hurl as insults are gendered which imply that being a woman is somehow the worst thing ever. Even more worrying, vaginas are seen as passive penis purses – the assumption that we exist as little more than holes for men to claim as demonstrated by violent porn, video games or the majority of films where female characters are throw in as male gaze fodder or as a sassy sidekick for the man to fuck at some point before he heads off in a shiny car to be broody and aloof elsewhere #mencantbetamed2k14. There is no real development of character in any of these scenarios, just a body, a hole.

In addition, insults like ‘fuck you’ as I mentioned above, are rooted in gender shaming; the idea that being fucked is shameful; that cissexist, hetero assumption that sex is only sex when its PIV further supports the shaming of female sexuality and the policing of our bodies, The overwhelming message seems to be ‘BE SEXY, BE SEXUAL, OOPS TOO MUCH, SLUT.’

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Women are taught to fear their vaginas – to see them as something separate from themselves almost. Consider abortion arguments where women are seen as little more than rent a wombs by pro lifers who can’t see a woman as an independent agency with her own rights and validity. We are taught to fear masturbation, to ignore our own desires by a patriarchal society that is scared shitless by female sexuality. The majority of sex scenes in movies focus on the primacy of the male orgasm and his pleasure; porn mirrors this on a bigger scale and sexually confident women are often torn apart in the media; see how the world reacted to Beyonce’s VMA’s performance and the backlash against Nicki’s Anaconda video which subverts traditional ideas about sexual dominance. A lot of men just can’t seem to get on board with confident women who are comfortable with their sexuality – we throw them off and resist their understanding of how women should behave. This is usually the point on twitter where a guy starts insulting my appearance or saying I am a slut because I have ‘that kind of face.’ Not really helping yourself there, mate but carry on proving my point.

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The biggest myths or outright lies surrounding our cherry pies are that they smell or taste bad – this is absolute bullshit. Vaginas smell and taste great. Sweet, metallic at times, musky. The scent is heady. The majority of guys I know LOVE giving head; they just worry that the girl won’t enjoy it or let them head on down. This could be a chicken and egg situation; what came first? The fear and confusion about our vaginas or the reluctance to let ourselves relax and enjoy oral sex? Companies make BIG MONEY by cashing in on the fears we might have about our vaginas;  ‘fem fresh’ and other feminine hygiene products promise to leave a pleasing aroma and you can buy special knickers and wipes to keep you fresh as a daisy. YOU DO NOT NEED THIS SHIT. Your vagina smells the way it should do; unless you have an infection, discharge and a soft, musky smell are perfectly normal and GOOD. I have written about oral sex before; some women don’t like it and that’s cool whereas others love it but worry about what their partner will think when he’s down there; if they are decent, they will just be thinking ‘I really hope she likes this.’

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Another myth peddled by scaremongers (or trashboys)  is that too much sex can make us super loose. BULLSHIT. Your vagina is a muscle.  Now, most of my muscles don’t really do a lot unless napping and pouring cereal counts as a workout, but I am reliably informed that muscles are clever things. Your vag can stretch out and then snap right back; even after having a baby. He won’t get lost inside you even if you’ve slept with half of Hull; it’s a vagina, not the Bermuda Triangle. Side note – so tempting to explain this idea of loose lala’s away by saying it’s a response from insecure guys who worry about the size of their manhood…

Finally, we are told that our vaginas are ugly. Boobs are sexualised to such an extent that we get a daily dose with our breakfast in The Sun and breastfeeding is considered unnatural by teen girls who are convinced that their tits are toys for the men in their lives but vaginas? No one mentions them unless it’s when hurling an insult or lamenting their appearance a la Charlotte and her depressed hoo ha. This cloak and daggers approach to our pussies presents them as shameful secrets to be kept hidden at all times lest we knock out the boys around us with the scent of fish (where did this come from by the way? Playgrounds the world over can be found by following the chanting of ‘something smells fishy’ by young boys as they chase girls around)

My advice would be to ignore everything bad you have heard or are told about your vagina. Get to know it; its yours so you can do what you want with it. Shave, wax, grow your pubes long enough to create a dragon shape or dye it purple, up to you. Learn what you like and what it takes to get you off so that sex is more pleasurable for you. Look, really look at yourself; vaginas are beautiful. Just like dicks come in all shapes and sizes, so do vaginas so if yours doesn’t look like Barbies, it’s cool. Don’t worry. It’s still gorgeous. Women are a powerful force to be reckoned with; why else do men the world over go to great lengths to subdue and shame us? Sexually confident and fearless women who don’t need validation are terrifying. Be one of them.

samantha

 

 

 

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blender I love boobs. I think they are beautiful and if I thought I could get away with posting a picture of mine here I would but as my mother reads this and would spontaneously combust at the sight of my pierced nipples, I’ll have to deny you that treat. What I don’t love though is the constant and systematic objectification of women and the hyper sexualisation of boobs that sees them become public property. The ‘No More Page 3‘ campaign was launched in 2012 by Lucy-Ann Holmes and has received a ton of media attention since. I get it and am totally on board with the majority of key points behind their aim of getting Page 3 removed from The Sun. If I am totally honest though, I haven’t signed the petition; not because I don’t recognise it’s importance but because I think The Sun itself is a hideous, misogynistic rag that manages to tick every box of the DO NOT DO list including transphobia, racism and homophobia as well as the rampant sexism. Signing the petition felt like saying OK, just the tits need to go and it’s cool, when in actual fact the whole HQ could burn down in a fire, leaving just a pile of thongs, used tissues  and Jeremy Clarkson’s suits and I wouldn’t mind. SunSun Why does Page 3 irk me so much though? Firstly, it presents women as little more than objects to be ogled over and reduces them down to body parts and ideals about sex and fuckability. When you have a newspaper full of stories about men doing ‘stuff’ like saving cats from trees, getting their dicks stuck in a Gregg’s pasty or running the country, the fact that the largest image of a woman in the whole thing is of her topless and posing seductively is pretty fucked. It screams that no matter what else women might be praised for in the paper, their primary purpose is to be lusted after and to have super perky tits that make the men pant. It is hard to encourage young girls to be ambitious in a society where their worth is still intrinsically linked to how appealing they might be to men; hard to promote ideas of equality when a daily example of sexism, glorified objectification and gender stereotyping exists in a platform that is so easily accessible and marketed as family friendly. I have read so many justifications for keeping the Page 3 section; it’s harmless, it’s traditional, they are JUST BOOBS but none of these sit well with me. Harmless? On the surface, sure; what harm can a pair of tits REALLY do? Tits themselves are awesome, right? They are soft and nice to touch and do stuff like feed a baby and hold up strapless tops. How can a page that celebrates these miracles be bad, I hear men who can’t get laid and know that this is the closest they’ll ever come to a pair of boobs, cry? Having them splashed across a page like this ‘harmlessly’ contributes to rape culture and male entitlement of which we already have a shit load to deal with. It sends a message that women’s bodies are public property, there for the taking. It tells guys that it’s totally cool to stare and lust after our boobs, because isn’t that the point of Page 3? To stare at some boobs? It says that we are fair game for cat calls and street harassment because the overwhelming message being transmitted is that as women, our primary purpose is to look appealing and be found desirable to men. The image is there for nothing other than titillation, to get a guy thinking, ‘cor, I’d love to bang her’ and the nicey nicey way it’s all done makes them think they could. Sure, it’s not pornography – it’s family friendly apparently and that’s cool because we shouldn’t be ashamed of our bodies and boobs don’t need to be hidden away like top secret government intel BUT it’s the context, the way in which they are represented that’s the issue. Men do sport! Men write about serious things like money and politics and cars and women? Well they stand there with their tits out and a caption saying ‘Cheryl LOVES sausages *wink*’ If your family are reading it, seeing that, what do you think they’re going to take away from their bonding exercise of reading The Sun before school? Oppressive gender roles, male entitlement, women are objects and there for sex is what. The idea that women are inferior and that the needs of men matter more. Traditional; This whole argument is based on the fact that it’s always been that way so you can’t change it. Bullshit. You do know how society progresses and evolves right? If we stuck with tradition, we’d be living in caves, discovering fire and giving birth in fields. Women are supposed to be equal and powerful now; we have the vote, The Equal Pay Act and Nicki Minaj and yet we’re supposed to buy that a national newspaper can’t change Page 3 because TRADITION?  Okay then. They’re just BOOBS; Alright, this is the one that pisses me off the most. Because they’re not just boobs; they are very specific boobs. To be honest, it could just be one pair of boobs with a different head attached each day. WHO KNOWS? page3 All of these women are white, with long hair and a very homogeneous body shape. These aren’t just boobs; they are one type that exist, reprinted every day, over and over. If you want to celebrate tits, DO THAT. Do it by showing breastfeeding instead of demonising it because someone else (aka, not you)  is attached to the nipple and you can’t take that insult to your ego; show women of colour; show lopsided tits; natural; small; massive; fake; women who have had a mastectomy. Don’t pretend to celebrate boobs by showing one pair on repeat and calling it ‘harmless.’ When someone who doesn’t immediately identify with the women in the pictures  (most people, then..) views these images, it could contribute to low self esteem, feeling ‘ugly’ or ‘wrong’ because they don’t match up and plays into the body shaming culture so often seen in The Daily Mail/ every magazine ever. It says that THESE boobs are perfect, what men want, what yours should look like. That isn’t harmless or innocent, or family friendly. It peddles an exclusive, idealistic body type that is unrealistic or unmaintainable for many women ON A DAILY BASIS. sadie   There are lots of things that blow my mind; the fact that The Sun has millions of readers is one of them so to those people saying ‘just avoid it’ – easier said than done. It exists. I don’t have to personally buy a copy of The Sun to have it’s impact felt; that is done in the way in which some men treat women; the way in which we have politicians responding that ‘this particular page is something of a national institution, providing the girls with a job and Sun readers with some light and harmless entertainment.’

It is felt in the way that young girls scrutinise their bodies and feel inadequate due to society’s insistence that we should look a certain way and conform to beauty ideals. It is apparent in the way that men feel entitled to our time, attention and bodies and the way that women share their experiences of sexism on an hourly basis on-line. It isn’t harmless. It is sexism. Glorified, state sponsored, harmful sexism.  What do you think? Follow and tweet me @anygirlfriday  

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fem

In a super clever move, society has managed to convince a lot of us that feminism is bad – mention the term in public and watch people recoil in horror as if you just whispered that you get off from throwing puppies from railway bridges in your spare time. Feminists are angry women, who don’t wear bras or shave right? They hate men, don’t they? Aren’t feminists those lesbians who can’t get a man so bitch and moan about it? Side eye x a million. Feminism has somehow been saddled with a ton of prerequisites that er, don’t actually exist. There isn’t a gift box that arrives the moment you declare yourself a feminist stuffed with a stick on merkin, some dungarees and The L Word  box-set and yet we see people falling over themselves to label feminism as ‘dangerous,’ ‘anti men’ ‘anti feminine’ and ‘hateful.’

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On twitter there are hashtags dedicated to anti feminism - they tend to be full of angry men claiming that they’d never date a feminist (as if they’d get the chance..) and women holding up signs that say things like ‘I don’t need feminism because I like men,’ or ‘ I am against feminism because I believe in equality.’ Both of these groups make me sigh – the first hold a lot of power and speak from a privileged platform by default of being men and have an easier time convincing society that they are right (because hello, centuries of it already) and the second just don’t understand what ‘feminism’ actually is. Add in a Tumblr blog and a Facebook page dedicated to hand made signs slating a movement that gave women the opportunity to have a voice and be heard in the first place and it’s a problem.

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That is it. Feminism literally means wanting equality with men. It means tackling the wage gap that STILL exists despite the introduction of The Equal Pay Act in 1970 and it now being 2014 where women STILL earn less; it means fighting back against the objectification of women in the media – for example, this cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine. Why is Anna naked but Stephen is fully clothed? Bigger question, why is this replicated in and on magazines the world over and not challenged? I often hear men argue that guys are ‘just’ as subject to this as women and my response is always no. Not even close. For women, the objectification and body policing is constant, systematic and often focused in on certain parts, thus rendering the whole woman as redundant in the face of her tits or bum. Men’s bodies are idealised; they are lauded and celebrated as conforming to hegemonic expectations of masculinity – think Beckham in his boxers. I’m not denying that men are subject to scrutiny, and that pressure is increasing BUT it is not on the same scale as what women face daily, hourly.

sexiBeing a feminist isn’t a fad, or trend. It is common sense to me. I can not comprehend a movement like anti feminism that actively opposes equality for women; one opposed to women or to feminism; a person (usually a man) who is hostile to sexual equality or to the advocacy of women’s rights, is how Wikipedia describes the movement. Dismissing a movement that fights for the rights of women to be equal seems as ludicrous as saying no thanks, I don’t need air or anything. I’m totally cool without gravity, ta mate. Food? Nah, you keep it.

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For me, the MRAs trolling the hashtags in search of an argument where they can insert the long words they’ve googled minutes before and Paul Elam quotes, or the angry men who actively trawled through the #feministsareugly to leave horrible comments for the women subverting the misogynistic derailing of the tag don’t bother me that much. OF COURSE some men will be threatened by a movement that seeks to challenge the privileges they’ve benefited from for decades. OF COURSE some men will be threatened by powerful women, not afraid to speak their minds because they’ve grown up in a world where girls are socialised to ‘be seen and not heard.’ To me, those men are scared of change, much like my grandma when I tried to teach her to text and she ended up sending a message to the doctor saying ‘GooD NigHT FroM GRandMA’. No, what hurts my heart is misinterpretation of the term ‘feminism’ and the fact that it is creating girl on girl hate.

love heart sweet with "girl power" written on itI LOVE women. I champion them all the time. My best friends are women, I am inspired on a daily basis by the amazing women on my twitter timeline, I support the rights of women to make whatever choices they want to with regards to their bodies, sexuality, education, family life etc. I think that the combined power and potential of women is both awe inspiring and possible if we just pull together and stop listening to a society that wants us divided and angry at each other instead of the injustices and inequalities at play. When the ‘feminists are ugly’ hashtag was trending, I was full of love for the thriving, goddess like women supporting each other, spreading love and solidarity in the face of the men jumping in to say ‘ugly, wouldn’t bang etc.’

There are no ‘rules’ that come with being a feminist; no code of honour and conduct that you have to sign up to. Bras are completely optional. For me, feminism is when I go for a Brazilian wax safe in the knowledge that if a woman wanted to grow her pubic hair long enough to plait then that choice is equally valid. It’s knowing that it wasn’t my fault when I was raped and understanding that rape culture CAN be tackled. Feminism is when I sunbathe topless, confident in the idea that my choice to show my body should be as respected as the women who cover up. It’s knowing that I can access contraception and it’s the knowledge that no number defines me; not my age, how many sexual partners I have had, how many times I have watched Frozen and sung along to ‘Let it Go’ loudly enough to make my neighbours bang on the wall. It is refusing to stop fighting for an end to FGM or child marriages, refusing to compromise on the rights of women to have full autonomy and reproductive freedom. It is refusing to ignore street harassment or casual sexism. It is supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by campaigning for better funding and support structures. It is getting angry and refusing to support the constant fat phobic, body shaming media that seems to exist solely to keep women in a perpetual cycle of body loathing and consumption of products designed to ‘fix’ constructed issues.

dis1Feminism is tackling slut shaming and the double standards that come with female sexuality – men having casual sex is super cool, but a girl? SLUT. It’s about tackling binary, arbitrary gender roles. It’s about the right to wear what you want; short skirt, long johns, Disney Princess costume to dinner, whatever.

It ISN’T about hating men. It’s nothing to do with wanting female superiority. You can be a happily married, stay at home mum who bakes cakes, wears heels and gets her nails done and still be a feminist.

What do you think? Follow me on twitter @anygirlfriday

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