Hello all. Today we are going to be discussing vaginas, feminism, and visibility.
The first – and perhaps one of my favorites – is the vagina. Or, I suppose, the female body in general. A question I have been asking myself a lot lately is this: why do we hate our bodies and/or why are we afraid of them? I’ve been looking at Instagram pictures in which there are females who choose not to shave their body hair and the commenters respond with death threats and cruel names. But when another girl posts a picture of herself cleanly shaven in a bikini, she is called a slut and is told that she doesn’t need to do anything to her body to be beautiful. It seems that as a woman one cannot ever truly win.
So this fact brings us to vaginas. Cliteracy is one of my new favorite campaigns. It speaks of clitoris awareness, bodily acceptance, and breaking down societal taboos. I have sat through too many sex education (or health) classes (or even English classes) in which sex is only defined as penetration between a man and a woman. Not once have I learned about the needs and desires of a woman; and when those facts were briefly mentioned, they were only to point out that a woman who has sex to fulfill her needs is socially deemed as “unpure.” This brings me back to one of my favorite Cruel Intentions quotes: “God forbid I exude confidence and enjoy sex.” But back on vaginas. Here is a really cool art piece about the diversity of vaginas. (Sidenote: my computer keeps telling me that “vaginas” is not a real word, further denying the existence of the wonderful things that exist physically and metaphorically between our legs.) (Here is an extra little tidbit I found regarding our friendly vaginas – a video about how to make emergency tampons.)
“In contemporary usage… the words ‘crone,’ ‘witch,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘virgin’ describe women as threatening, evil, or heterosexually inexperienced and thus incomplete. In prepatriarchal times, however, these words evoked far different images. The crone was the old woman whose life experience gave her insight, wisdom, respect, and the power to enrich people’s lives. The witch was the wise-woman healer, the knower of herbs, the midwife, the link joining body, spirit, and Earth. The bitch was Artemis-Diana, goddess of the hunt, most often associated with the dogs who accompanied her. And the virgin was merely a woman who was unattached, unclaimed, and unowned by any man and therefore independent and autonomous. Notice how each word has been transformed from a positive cultural image of female power, independence, and dignity to an insult or a shadow of its former self so that few words remain to identify women in ways both positive and powerful.”
— Allan G. Johnson, “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them or an Us” (1997)
Sometimes I think about connotation of words in situations like in the above quote. Think about many of our not-so-nice words in the English language. Many are words that were originally in reference to (or are currently used to) describe women (or their bodies): bitch, slut, pussy, fuck, cunt, faggot, motherfucker. All of these words are intended to show weakness or demean women. But the words that describe men – dick, cock, jackass, douchebag – are not necessarily negative in connotation. In fact, many of these “male” words are used to show strength or domination over another being. This dichotomy of language in reference to the two genders is telling of our perspectives on each.
Recently I’ve read a lot of stories about females in the world of video games and the problems that they have been facing. I started off watching this video
about why video games need feminism and ended up reading this Facebook post
about a World of Warcraft survey. What is amazing to me is not how many females actually exist in the gaming world, but how poorly they are treated. I mean, I guess this shouldn’t really be surprising for me. For years I have played the Call of Duty series with my brother and have been harassed when playing online. But it progressively became a thing that I was able to ignore; it was truly just part of the game. These facts opened up my eyes to the reality of the mistreatment of women who exist in the gaming world, despite the fact that there are so many of us.
As far as representation, I feel as though the media rarely includes women in stories and if they do, these women essentially serve as beautiful white objects to cater to the needs of the male protagonists, whatever they may be. Or, the women are simply seen as bitches and the actresses who play these characters are seen as such in real life
. I’ve talked about this many times before. Hell, I will even talk about it over and over again until I reach my grave: women are mistreated in the media and we need some representation.
“Screw writing WHITE strong women. Write interesting women of color. Write well-rounded women of color. Write complicated women of color. Write a woman of color who kicks ass, write a woman of color who cowers in a corner. Write a woman of color who’s desperate for a husband. Write a woman of color who doesn’t need a man. Write women of color who cry, women of color who rant, women of color who are shy, women of color who don’t take no shit, women of color who need validation and women of color who don’t care what anybody thinks. THEY ARE ALL OKAY, and all those things could exist in THE SAME WOMAN. Women of color shouldn’t be valued because we are strong, or kick-ass, but because we are people. So don’t focus on writing characters who are white Strong. Write characters who are people.”
I talked about this back in August
and again in September
, but, like I said, it is important to bring up time and time again: strong females are important; diverse females are important; weak females are important; smart females are important; ALL females are important – especially in media. We need to be seen. We need to be heard
. We do exist
(no matter how long it make take you to find us). That is what visibility is about.
I will leave you with one last quote. We started off talking about vaginas and now we will end with a discussion on boobs: (Isn’t the female body just awesome?!)
I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They’re always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor.
They said, “You mean, men act like babies?”
—Carolyn Latteier, Breasts, the women’s perspective on an American obsession