Muff March: were you there?

You may remember from my previous post “And all that Va-jazz(le)” that I am a fan of the wild and untamed Ladygarden: just as Mother Nature intended. Sadly, stick-on jewels and extreme hair removal are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to women’s relationships with their vulvas. It would seem we are now being faced with images of the “ideal vagina” or “perfect pussy”. Who on earth decreed what constitutes the “ideal” I really don’t know. After all, part of the wondrousness of vulvas is their variety: of colour, shape, hairiness…

The demand for elective vulval surgery is on the increase and one of the procedures women are requesting is labiaplasty – where the shape and size of the labia (inner lips) are changed. Ouch.

I saw a piece of film of a woman having her labia cut. She was awake – presumably had local anaesthetic – the surgeon marked a dotted line and then began to cut with his scalpel. The woman was young and pretty, she had chosen this procedure, and she looked terrified.

The porn industry is largely being blamed for circulating the image of the “ideal” vulva. Women working in the industry may decide (or even be told) that they need to change their vulva in order to meet the desired look: in keeping with the pre-pubescent no pubic hair look, the vulval standard requires neat, trimmed labia. I repeat: OUCH!

When the hair is removed, we suddenly see what’s there. Labia are more obvious. And some people don’t like the look of them.

A cosmetic surgery website talks about “correcting and defining” the appearance of the labia. It notes that many women have concerns about the appearance of their labia. It then goes on to state that labiaplasty helps patients “feel like a real woman again”. Hmmm… So she wasn’t a “real woman” to begin with? And surely, the issue isn’t that vulvas should look a certain way, but rather why “many women” have concerns about the appearance of their vulvas in the first place?

Porn photos are air-brushed. We know that breasts can be enlarged and waists trimmed with the click of a mouse, but did you know that labia are also shaped by the computer technician? Uhuh.

We move further and further away from what is real and, in doing so, women are suffering.

Muff March bannerSo a big ‘thank you’ to UK Feminista  and Solent Feminist Network who organised this week’s “Muff March” in London and Southampton.  Protesting against the “pornified” culture which drives women to seek cosmetic surgery for their vulvas and against the surgeons who profit from it, slogans included:

“Keep your mits off our bits!”

“There’s nothing finer than my vagina!”

I wasn’t able to be at either of the marches in person, but I applaud all those who did.

We need to celebrate real women in all their wonderful diversity. Protests like Muff March raise awareness, and artists like Betty Dodson with her vulva drawings, and Jamie McCartney’s Great Wall of Vagina, are providing us with alternative images of real vulvas rather than standardised ‘nipped and tucked’ and airbrushed ones. But there is more work to be done…

By accepting our own uniqueness, and celebrating diversity, we can help other women to feel confident just the way they are.

“Love your ladygarden!”

Pass it on.

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