Last night, Channel 4 debuted the third instalment in what artist Laura Dodsworth’s calls an “unexpected triptych” of projects on breasts, penises and now, vulvas. In interviews ahead of the release, Dodsworth said the more she thought about photographing women’s vulvas, the more necessary she felt it was: It is liberating to the participants in getting to know themselves, in a world that demands a lot of unrealistic things from vulvas, while at the same time knowing very little about female external genitalia.
“It’s also a part of the body we know relatively little about – historically, there has been a lack of scientific understanding; about the clitoris, about orgasms, sexual pleasure,” she told the Guardian.
So why don’t we know more about the vulva. For starters, Channel 4’s name for the series is #100Vaginas. Dodsworth’s arguments for getting to know the vulva are sound. It is in essence reclaiming a part of oneself in the name of health, wholeness and female sexuality. But we must point out the other fact apparent in Channel 4’s editorial license – “vulvas” feel so controversial to actually say, therefore they should be said. The very act of Channel 4 labelling this project as #100Vaginas is tone deaf to the times. The vulva must be shown. And the vulva must be said.
You wouldn’t name an Animal Planet show, “Chimpanzees” and then only show Tarsiers because you know your audience is more familiar with the term chimp. And you sure wouldn’t have an exhibition about testicles and only show casts of the penis. We must ask ourselves what a certain baseline of misinformation shelves in the service of entertainment, values and ideals.
There is the argument, one that writer and comedian
Why I Had My Vulva Photographed For The ‘100 Vaginas’ Project