By Shambhavi Saxena:
What do you do when you see a woman walking down the street carrying a massive DIY craft model of ‘lady parts’? Probably stop and stare, giggle and look away, rush your kids into the car and drive off.
But being confronted by lady parts is exactly what we need right now. There’s so much that we don’t know about the female body – it’s literally uncharted territory, and the reason for it is that we keep guarding ourselves from finding out more.
The female body (read: primary and secondary sexual characteristics that are medically designated as part of the ‘female’ reproductive system) gets at best a cursory glance during the few anatomy classes we sat through in school, and it simply isn’t enough. Remember that BuzzFeed quiz on the female sexual anatomy? Loads of people who had a crack at it actually found it pretty difficult.
But the obscurity has to go. And a new web series aims to do precisely that. Called “Vagina Dispatches” and presented by The Guardian journalist Mona and filmmaker Mae, it will explore several questions related to vaginas (obviously) over four episodes.
The first of these just dropped and looks at the culture of silence, shame, vanity and pleasure that surrounds the good ‘ol vagina, and is an absolute must watch.
Mona is seen carrying a large vulva around town to gauge just how much people have learnt about it, and that so many people have their fact wrong speaks volumes. As one of the women in the video observes, how can we be in charge of our bodies if we don’t even know what they’re called?
What’s refreshing about this short film as well is that it moves beyond cisgender perspectives. Trans bodies tend to be put under a voyeuristic ‘cis gaze’ too often, so it’s good to see the episode allow actual trans people speak about their experiences, about the choice of reconstructive surgery and more.
The vulva (and all its other little friends) should not be a mystery – because that lack of knowledge gives rise to all kinds of crazy myths, stereotypes and anxieties about how “normal” one’s body parts are. Maybe this episode will get you to look at your vulva like you might look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of flowers. The resemblances are pretty striking!
And I think we could all do with a little art appreciation for our own bodies, don’t you?