Women Launch an Artful Counter-Offense on the Vagina Battlefront

VideoIf you can’t say it, don’t legislate it.

As the War on Women rages on, anti-woman forces – primarily a cadre of ultra-conservative men – continue to beef up their offensive troops. They now have Paul Ryan “a no abortions ever” kind of guy, teaming up with Mitt “I’ve always been pro-life” Romney, and together, they’ve created a party platform that represents the biggest threat to Roe v Wade we’ve seen thus far.

New to the frontline, we’ve been introduced to the rogue soldier, Representative Todd Akin, a Missouri candidate for the U.S. Senate. In a recent interview, Rep. Akin was seen munching on a tasty foot in his mouth as he expressed his belief that in most cases of “legitimate” rape, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” thereby preventing pregnancy. Sadly, he isn’t the only politician who actually believes this absurd theory, nor does he stand alone in his justification for excluding rape-induced pregnancies in legislation that would restrict abortion funding.

Though our battles have escalated in the 2012 presidential campaign, women have long been besieged by fundamentalist religious groups, a male-dominated government, and society at large. It wasn’t until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, that women were granted the right to vote. Finally, we were allowed to raise our political voices, even if we would not be spared continuing efforts to silence us. We’re now all too aware that a strong declaration of opinion can lead to consequences. The duality of our political system was clearly exposed when Michigan’s State Rep. Lisa Brown, was censured for using the word “vagina” during a debate on abortion rights. Politicizing the word “vagina” helped mobilize many of us who had grown a little too accustomed to minding our manners.

If you can say it, display it.

Women have continued to say “vagina.”

Some even seek to destigmatize other descriptive terms for female genitalia, speaking – what may still be to many – the unspeakable. Others, the more demonstrative among us, are showing their vaginas (or vaginae…) to the world in a no-skirt-lifting fashion, through various forms of artistic expression. Vagina art may not be a new concept, but it is a window to society’s changing regard for women throughout history – from divine worship to oppression and repression.

Instead of conforming to expectations of “good girl” behavior, we’re seeing an emergence of newly empowered and emboldened women who have set up their easels, raided granny’s baskets of crochet hooks, knitting needles, embroidery kits, and hauled the sewing machines down from the attic. The results, as seen in the examples we’ve collected, evoke a broad range of emotions. Laughter. Anger. Sadness. Pride. Each creative effort celebrates the artistry of the individual as well as our collective identity. All have been inspired by “the sacred source of life”the vagina.

Slideshow Music Courtesy JSP Records Mama Don’t Allow It” by Julia Lee & Her Boyfriends; Images: Not Your Average Hooker, HypgnosisShine Maverick Jewelry, Hypgnosis, Johnny B WildeExpired Goods, Scarlet Tentacle, Purple Hippo Stitches, I Wear Party Hats, spidercamp, Irma Diaz/SourOctopus, TheVaginaZine, The Tie Dye Bohemian, Alex Florschutz, Adrien Art, Tina Casebeer/wikit626, ©Carrie Reichardt, Alex Florschutz, Woman In Bloom, thepixelrat, The Voting Box , VJazzle, Bridesmaids, Wedding Dress, Protest/CODEPINK, ©Ursula Kölle, Cupcakes, Body Parts Poster, Pink Flannel by Daria, Graffiti, Stenciled Tees/#waronwomen, ampule, the moss girl, ©Lydia Shalanko, Protest/CODEPINK, Scarlet Tentacle, Pochos Cosas, Vulva Love Lovely, Sinful Soap Favors, Family Tree Glass, Delicious Accessories

Helen Bartley

Helen Bartley is a writer, multi-media artist and graphic designer. Her work is focused on all aspects of culture that includes – but is not limited to – politics, film, art, and advertising, frequently using visuals and music as vehicles in her story-telling. Her diverse experiences (NYC taxi driver, stand-up comic, advertising executive, Creative Director for promotions at The New Yorker magazine) often serve as a source of inspiration. Her work has been widely seen and published.