Guerilla Vulvas Take on Vaginal Rejuvenators

Vulva-activism is alive and well–and on its way to Las Vegas.

The latest protests stem from concern about the growing number of practitioners performing female genital cosmetic surgery. The surgeries take many forms. A labiaplasty reduces the size of the labia (while often performed to correct damage to the labia during childbirth or to alleviate discomfort, appearance has been given as another reason why women elect for the surgery); a “vaginal rejuvenation” tightens the vagina; and hymenoplasty (also called hymen reconstruction surgery) creates a “hymen replacement.” There are complex reasons women seek out these procedures, but two top surgeons told Womens eNews that negative comments from male partners are the number one reason women request the surgery.

According to the Womens eNews article, Dr. Pamela Loftus, a plastic surgeon in Boca Raton, Fla., said:

The most common reason we hear is that they have had a negative comment made by a male sexual partner. Women are made to feel that they are not perfect the way they are and often it’s the partner that sets this off.

This is messed up. And it’s a perfect example of why feminism is still very much needed.

Thirty and forty years ago, women sat in circles examining their diverse vulvas with mirrors, many for the first time. This type of radical celebration of vulva-diversity (and women’s natural beauty!) led to social movements in the arts and in society at large. And the movements haven’t stopped.

Two years ago, New View feminist activists staged a protest at a genital cosmetic surgeon’s office in New York City (they got the attention of Time magazine.) Last year they put on a fabulous Brooklyn art show featuring the diversity and natural beauty of vulvas. A few months ago they testified at the FDA and helped to successfully block approval of a neurotransmitter-regulating drug (think: anti-depressants) masquerading as the next Female Viagra.

And now this: On Sunday, September 26, vulva activists will fly to Las Vegas to focus attention on their cause. While practitioners are attending the Second Global Symposium on Cosmetic Vaginal Surgery, hosted by the International Society of Cosmetogynecology, vulva activists will attend their own “counter-meeting.” The counter-meeting takes the form of a one-day conference hosted by New View, along with the University of Nevada Las Vegas Women’s Studies Department and Petals, which will include discussions about “genital perfectability industries” and the revival of “cunt art” in craft, film, photography and painting.

If you can’t make it to Vegas, at least get old school: Find a mirror, take a look and realize you’re just fine (even beautiful!) the way you are.

Photo of rose from Flickr user larry & flo under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Thank you Meika for posting this. I am so proud the voices opposed to unnecessary genital cosmetic surgery are being heard and getting organized. I am also proud of the video we made at Self Serve now has over 16,700 views. You can watch it here: NOTE: NSFW. http://selfserved.blogspot.com/2010/07/you-dont-n

  2. Glad this is getting some nice coverage! The fabulous Rachel Liebert from the fabulous New View Campaign (and International Vulva Knitting Circle) did a great post for us on their upcoming action, complete with photos of their knitted vulvas! Please check it out at http://bit.ly/c6dQyg

  3. I'm also very glad that there is a lot more dialogue now about the unnecessary nature of this surgery that is being heavily promoted by some plastic surgeons. As an MD, I am saddened that society's view of women's body is becoming so distorted. I have commented in several places (including upcoming article in Jan/Feb). But you can check out http://bit.ly/91uidw

  4. As I pass through menopause, the idea of having a tighter vagina makes me shudder. I gave birth to 2 kids at 38 and 40, and now at 52, two years without a period, I am thankful my husband doesn't have a larger penis. Perhaps women should try strengthening their vaginal walls with exercises before turning to surgery. They could be in for a nasty surprise in their 50's.

  5. Liliana Prina says:

    Dear Ms. Blog:

    I love the image and the colors you used to communicate beauty within the female genitals. Strong and mystical as a rose is your vulva.

    I am not sure if will ever be a man in my life that will bring such desire for rejuvenation and cosmetic surgery.

    Perhaps is not necessary but if a lady emotionally and intellectually chooses to perform the surgical procedure is perfectly sane and normal.

    Sincerely,

    Liliana Prina

  6. Devon Moore says:

    I think an important thing to consider with this issue is how dangerous surgery is in general. We've become so immune to the dangers of elective procedures, simply because they are so commonplace. Surgery is surgery; there is the risk of infection (and in hospitals, one can get really nasty infections in spite of their best efforts), and when one goes under general anesthesia, one generally signs some kind of release form that lists all of the horrible things that can happen under anesthesia, including death. It seems that plastic surgeons who are doing procedures strictly for aesthetic reasons are placing patients at unnecessary risk and violating the Hippocratic oath. They are putting patients at risk by putting them under anesthesia, and are putting them at risk for infection by creating a wound where there wasn't one to begin with. Remember when Kanye West's mother died from plastic surgery? It wasn't anyone's fault (though the media was quick to blame the surgeon). Serious complications and even death are all part of the risk of going under the knife. Her death was a disturbing reminder that we have forgotten that altering perfectly healthy, functional bodies to fit some ridiculous standard of body can sometimes come at great cost.

  7. Barbara Mor says:

    I think this issue must always be related to the larger, even metaphysical, context of the patriarchal male's
    fear and hatred of Nature, the nature of life itself (what the Female represents to them), and their crazed
    obsession to replace human and terrestrial biology with artificial, specifically man-made constructions. And
    women who buy into this biophobia in all its cosmetic and fashionable manifestations (the 3 letters M-A-N
    keep reappearing here, you notice?!) need to be challenged on a very deep philosophical as well as
    political and cultural level. The cosmetic 'improvement' of the Female Body doesn't stop with us human women; it is projected over all the earth, with consequences we are foreseeing more terribly every day.

  8. femmepolitical says:

    The growing popularity of such procedures can be traced to new norms in pornography — video and print — that feature women with surgically mutilated labia, bleached, anuses, etc. For example, Playboy starting erasing vulvas in photos (surgically and with airbrushing) about five years ago. It's no wonder that some heterosexual men who consume porn are dissatisfied with their partner's labia — it hasn't been butchered!

  9. Every woman's vulva is different. I've never seen an ugly one. If a man doesn't like what he sees or feels, I think it is his problem. Cosmetic surgery is mostly about women pleasing men. What about men pleasing women? Do women pressure men to have penis surgery and would a man do it for a woman? I don't think so.

    As women it is difficult to feel our bodies judged constantly — by other women and by men. So women resort to drastic measures, often making themselves unappealing in the process because they become addicted to correcting what they or men see as flaws in their bodies. Hence, Anorexia, plastic surgery, body dysmorphic disorder. The vulva surgery and airbrushing is disturbing. This society needs to learn to accept women as we are. That should be a law. Men and women are fooled by touched up women in magazine, perfected women on TV and in the movies (what woman goes to bed looking beautiful and with make-up on? Further, what woman wakes up looking "perfect"? Wouldn't men (and women) be better off with real unadultured women? This body morphing is out of control.

  10. The photo looks like a lovely flower and a juicy one at that. WE are beautiful. Some men are blind to the beauty of real women. Surgery to tighten my vagina? Tell him to grow a bigger harder penis!

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