Oh, how I wanted to be in Brooklyn for the very recent Vulvagraphics event celebrating female genital diversity. However, due to scheduling chaos I couldn’t be there so these photos of knit & crochet vulvas (and a guest post by Rachel Liebert) have been my solace.
As you know, I adore all things vulvas from my vulva puppet to opportunities to talk to Tyra Banks, Dan Savage and colleagues at conferences about women’s bodies and sexuality. You can imagine how excited I was to hear about Vulvagraphics then!
Vulvagraphics featured beautifully knit vulvas contributed by women from the International Vulva Knitting Circle (yes, there’s a Facebook group) and a panel of speakers touching on the importance of celebrating women’s bodies for what they are – rather than a need to change them.
As I couldn’t attend, I asked one of the organizers of Vulvagraphics and the knitting circle, Rachel Liebert, to give us the scoop on the knitting and the celebration. Fortunately for me and for MSP readers, she was kind enough to contribute. In her own words, then, is a guest blog from Rachel Liebert:
“The International Vulva Knitting Circle started late 2008 as a grassroots activist collective in support of the New View‘s campaign to challenge female genital cosmetic surgery. I originally wanted to provide a space for (young) women to craft resistance to the chain-store production of their bodies and sexualities, while also weaving together what feminism and activism mean for us. Vulva knitting circles seemed particularly spesh as they engender community and dialogue, while having a certain rupture by juxtaposing the kitsch, old-school, ladylike stereotype of craft against the radicalism of making female genitalia visible. Alongside this process was (ironically) mass-producing of our own line of diverse vulvas to inspire dialogue and action in our communities. Through joining people seem to gain knowledges and have less shame about their bodies and desires, see their sexuality in a more politicized way, build even stronger connections with their lady-friends, and get a sense of contributing to something important. And have laughs and general merriment and fun-times along the way.
We now have nearly 100 vulvas from people across six countries, and a Facebook group with over 300 members. The vast majority of us didn’t know how to knit, but either learned the one stitch needed (seriously; one), or crochet instead, crafting individually or in circles. We consciously deter the use of patterns (diversity!) so long as the labia majora, labia minora, and almighty clitoris are included. Recently in NYC we lost our exhibition-flower in at Vulvagraphics, which was a great activist event organized by the New View campaign to celebrate female genital diversity through art.
Following the interest we got here, in NYC we’re planning a large communal knitting circle at a public space sometime soon, before our own activist-exhibition early 2010. From there the vulvas (a.k.a. “the ladies”) will start their travels to members in other parts of the world to seed local events that fit broadly within our political feminist agenda.
I am particularly passionate about this project as, while providing a clear and tangible focus for activism, promoting female genital diversity embodies so many nuanced and complicated issues. A big part of this is the (frustratingly historic and oh-so ongoing) denial/suppression of female desire â€“ the “absent” clitoris and coital imperative, silence and shame around masturbation, positioning of women as the gatekeepers of men’s supposedly rampant sexuality, portraying of sex as overwhelmingly risky and only legitimate within the confines of long-term monogamous (heterosexual) relationships, conflating of female reproduction with sexuality, etc!
With sex education embedded in incredibly staunch institutional, political, and sociocultural agendas that are still going to take some time to transform, it seems for now we need to carve our own spaces for desire. And the humble knitting needle combined with some good-old-fashioned-(not-so-)wholesome conversation about female genital diversity provide, I think, one door into this.”
Thanks, Rachel! To learn more about the International Vulva Knitting Circle, contact Rachel Liebert at firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on the below photos for larger, more detailed views of the vulvalicious knit vulvas, participants and art work.