Penises are everywhere. From unsolicited dick pics to phallic toys, candies, pillows, cakes, balloons, lamps; almost everything can be shaped like the male genitalia and we find it hilarious, which has led to a normalization of it that its counterpart doesn't have the privilege of. The vagina is a mystical creature that is missing from the social dialogue, both visual and otherwise creating a stigma that has led to the dissociation and alienation of women from their own bodies.
The Vagina Monologues addressed this issue in '96, "I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them. I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas-a community, a culture of vaginas. There's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them-like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there.”
Dissenting against this taboo and oppression of sexuality and gender, visual artist Komal Madar constructs vulvas with South Asian textiles in her 'Yoni' series.
Komal's work resonates against a backdrop of historical stigmatization and suppression of the female body. Throughout Western art history, the female nude has often been depicted through the lens of male artists, perpetuating a patriarchal society's ideals. These representations deliberately omitted the female sex organ, denying women their power and connection to the mysteries of creation. This concept, known as 'the male gaze,' further objectified and subjugated women, reducing their presence to objects of visual pleasure while robbing them of their inherent strength and authority.
Kamal's 'Yoni' series emerges as a sacred celebration and assertion of feminine generative power. The term 'yoni' finds its roots in Hinduism, symbolizing the goddess Shakti and the divine feminine energy. Through her meticulously crafted fabric vulvas, the artist invites viewers to embrace the complexities and layers of being a woman. Each fabric used in her artwork holds a unique story, often collected as offcuts from Indian tailors where women frequently visit to have their traditional Indian suits made. Thus, the very materials employed in her art are imbued with personal narratives and a collective connection to femininity.
Komal's artistic process of layering each fabric piece mirrors the intricate nature of women's experiences. It signifies the myriad complexities that shape their identities, narratives, and struggles. By employing embroidered and sequined textiles, she highlights the richness and diversity of these stories, celebrating the resilience and strength inherent in the feminine experience. The artistry lies not only in the visual representation but also in the profound symbolism that underscores the transformative power of embracing one's own biology and sexuality.
The dichotomy between vulvas being worshipped in various cultures and the pervasive stigma and ignorance around it that's making girls as young as 9 seek out labioplasty (the surgical procedure that alters the aesthetic appearance of the labia and/or clitoral hood) is outrageous. The growing imagery of vulvas in art is a necessary and transformative force, paving the way for a more enlightened and compassionate understanding of our bodies and ourselves. Maybe over time we'll be able look at vaginas with the same levity and neutrality that we do their counterparts.
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