In celebration of the vulva!

Last week I went to a really wonderful student performance of the Vagina Monologues at put on by LSU’s Women Organizing Women. The women were excellent performers, and really got into their various roles. It was beautiful, and the balance they struck between celebrating bodies and mourning the violence done to them was quite impressive. I enjoyed myself.

That said, there were a few things I had issues with. The first was a quote from the ever-irksome Andrea Dworkin about how equality can never exist alongside (among other things) pornography. As someone who finds a lot of legitimate personal expression in creating (and often viewing/reading) pornography, I was a little annoyed. And being intimately involved with a woman who does the same, and to see her sexuality insulted like that in a venue supposedly dedicated to building it up was rather infuriating.

Also, the head of LAFASA (Louisiana Foundation Against sexual Assault) for whom the event was a fundraiser, mentioned the recent controversy over New York’s Governor Spitzer being discovered to have patronized a prostitute. She said it was nice to finally be holding a man responsible for the “social ill of prostitution.” It seems to me that prostitution itself is not a social ill, but the way it’s generally practiced is a result of the way which we as a society treat sex. Her comments seemed to disregard all of those who choose to become and remain sex workers. Demonization of prostitution seems only a step away from demonization of prostitutes, or better, regarding them as in need of pity, deluded, or abused because of their profession. Work to erase the violence against them, not to eradicate what they do. That’s like attacking agriculture because of abuses of migrant workers.

Finally there was a slide that said “Resist Rape Culture” and gave as examples of this covers of Maxim (or some such magazine), Girls Gone Wild, and what looked like scenes from porn.

But as I said, the performance itself was top notch! The entrance to the International Cultural Center (where the show was held) was decorated with draped red and pink fabric with a pink paper lantern at the apex. I got a chuckle out of that. And I was engrossed enough in the performance that I hardly even cringed when there was a bit about someone shaving her vagina. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against shaving. But trying to shave one’s vagina would probably lead to a trip to the emergency room for some very uncomfortable stitches. I love the play, but I’d love to see some vulva love as well.

There was also a “Vagina Art Show” afterwards with lots of female-genital related pieces of art: paintings, sculptures, fabric arts, collage. It was really amazing. After discovering that I could use my debit card to purchase I piece, I had to go for this reimagining of the Mother of God, entitled “In A New Light”.

I see it as an affirmation of the sacredness of our bodies as well as of the fleshiness of Mary and Jesus. It’s a nice escape from the too-frequent attacks on the body within Christianity.

And I have to say, the play, the art show and the piece I bought inspired me to work at creating some body-positive art of my own. Tonight I went to Hobby Lobby and got some polymer clay and paint and made vulva art!

To show the size, I placed a lighter next to the pre-baked piece and later photographed it after baking and painting.

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Next up? Penis art!

Transphobia and Feminism

I’ve been reading Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw, and it’s really a wonderful book. I think it works much better as a memoir and personal exploration of gender than it does as theory, but I like the blending of the two. I’m less interested in dry argumentation than I am people’s stories of how gender affects life.

One thing that’s really thrown me for a loop, though, is the idea of transphobic feminists. I mean, I’d heard about Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and their policies of gender assignation and exclusion, and part of me can at least accept the right free association that they’re practicing even if I disagree with them, but some of the things that certain feminist writers have written about transgendered people was even more infuriating. For example, Janice Raymond writes:

All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves …. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.

It seems to me that Raymond has a problem determining where she stops and others begin (thank you Elizabeth for that phrase). Claiming that self-identification and owning oneself is an act of violence against others is in(s)ane. It is, it seems to me, a claim of ownership of the identities and bodies of others. How that falls under the same philosophical heading as “The radical notion that women are people too” I simply can’t understand.

Of course any philosophy that is based on preserving binary gender is not going to resonate much with me anyway.

Worship services disrupted to rid them of the gay

Anti-gay activists crash worship services

A conservative Christian values group has been interrupting services at two central Ohio churches to protest their support for homosexuality.Minutemen United vowed to attend services every Sunday.

On one of the first Sundays, six people came to the church’s 11 a.m. service and addressed the congregation during a time designated for prayer requests and comments.

Hurt said a man, who introduced himself as a minister from the New Beginnings Church in Warsaw, Ohio, started to give a sermon about how the church was acting against God’s word by accepting homosexuals.

I’m reminded of my own outrage recently when a local “Pastor Kicks Transvestite Out of Uncle’s Funeral”. My first reaction was to put on a skirt and a blouse, a little tasteful makeup and head out to that church on a Sunday morning or twelve. What stopped me (once I had a considerable amount of time to cool down) was that I realized that my own agenda, no matter how much I believe in it, was less important than the act of worship. No matter how wrong the local pastor was for what he did, I’d have been more wrong for disrupting the worship experience of his congregants.

And that’s my biggest complaint against these Minutemen. Yes, we disagree about homosexuality and we disagree about what it means to love one’s neighbor, but once they disrespect their brothers and sisters in the act of worshiping God in order to advance their agenda then they’ve gone too far.