WAR OF THE PUSSY

Baiqu
6 min readMar 2, 2017

Let the Flowers of Democracy bloom

The last thing you want to picture when you think of your pussy is Donald Trump. But “grab them by the pussy” has now become a phrase that will forever stalk the lexicon of popular culture. Before the president of the United States bragged about his sexual harassment of innocent women, the war between the patriarchy and pussies had already been quietly brewing for longer than anyone would like to admit.

From the mass treatment of “hysteria”, to female genital mutilation, to banning abortions, our pussies and everything to do with its pleasure and reproductive purposes has been under attack long before Trump brought his tiny hands anywhere near one. However, the fact that the leader of the world’s largest democracy is a “pussy grabber” is a seriously dangerous declaration of an outright war against pussies and everything it stands for.

Vaginas and pussies are so often taboos even in the most liberal of societal contexts. Within the sphere of contemporary art, the portrayal of vaginas (especially by women) is seen as contentious and even criminal. Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi was arrested twice for distributing digital templates of her vagina for 3D printing. Works by Georgia O’Keeffe, whose flower paintings have almost exclusively been interpreted as sexual, regardless of O’Keeffe’s vehement resistance to this interpretation. In an interview with The Guardian, Tate Modern’s director of exhibition Achim Borchardt-Hume said “ the decision to host a major O’Keeffe retrospective also came from an awareness that the contribution of women to 20th-century art was “still at risk of being overshadowed by men”.

Although you might come across plenty of female nudes or vaginas in museums and galleries, you have to ask how many of those were by women. In fact, how many pieces of art in museums or galleries overall are by women? And how many of them are by women of colour or women from regions disadvantaged by conflict and oppression?

Guerrilla Girls

Maria Kulikovska first launched Flowers of Democracy in the summer of 2015 in Ukraine, to highlight and protest the detrimental impact of the conflict in Ukraine on women. Kulikovska together with a team of like-minded activists, created plaster moulds of their own vaginas and placed these sculptures in flowerpots, public steps and fountains surrounding government buildings. The casts of vaginas are a powerful and unashamed declaration of empowerment.

The Flowers of Democracy was brought to London in 2016 with Art Represent. FoD 2016 aimed to create a wider dialogue around gender equality and feminism. The volunteers placed these flowers of democracy in various locations around London that symbolised gender inequalities.

TRAFALGAR SQUARE. HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT. TATE MODERN

The physical organ and the very words — vagina/pussy — suffer from censorship and condemnation. The portal from which human civilization is birthed has somehow become synonymous to shame and weakness. The stereotyping of traditional gender roles shaped by a dominantly patriarchal society in most parts of the world has meant that to be feminized is to be weakened. The very word “Pussy” is a slang term for “a weak, cowardly, or effeminate man”.

The idea that feminization equates to weakness leads to an imbalanced power perceptions when it comes to sex. Especially during times of violent conflict, sexual abuse is frequently used as a military tactic to harm, humiliate and shame. “Violence and war can also weaken systems of protection, security and justice. For these reasons, conflicts often exacerbate and escalate sexual violence. Similarly, disasters can also cause a deterioration of protection systems, which has the potential to increase vulnerability to abuse, gender-based violence, sexual harassment and trafficking. Increased levels of sexual and gender-based violence can often persist well after the end of a crisis.”

The shame attached to the female genital both Western and non-Western cultures can lead to societal norms and behaviour that oppress and actively suppress a woman’s sexuality or even the potential of her sexuality. From slut-shaming to censorship of expression to female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM being one of the most severe violations of the female sex affects more than 200 million girls around the world. Bound by the idea that the vagina or pussy is somehow dirty, “FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine or male.”

Looking back through history, we have only just begun socialising society as a whole in moving toward striving for gender equality. In 1911 International Women’s Day was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The United Nations celebrated 8th March for the first time in 1977, only 41 years ago.

Roe V. Wade, a case where the Supreme Court deemed abortion legal across the US was only 44 years ago; and the contraceptive pill was legalised for all women regardless of their marital status a year before that in 1972. In the UK, the Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act protecting women from domestic abuse was passed only 42 years ago; and it was only 2 years ago that women in the UK were allowed to ask the police about their partner’s history of domestic abuse. In so many parts of the world today, discrimination and abuse against women and girls are still legal if not encouraged. Even in the “West” or the global “North”, where gender equality has seemingly been achieved, women still get paid less than men across multiple industries, and soft sexism is still prevalent.

The Flowers of Democracy aims to question our ideas of gender roles and to encourage a more intimate and unashamed interaction with the vagina itself. To openly look at the private self of a woman’s body that continues to be discussed, controlled, and abused by external political circumstances; abortion rights, rights to contraception, to choose against Female Genital Mutilation, sex trafficking, and being second class citizens for simply being/identifying with being a woman.

But we should be embracing the female form rather than be ashamed by it. Reclaim the vagina and be empowered by it. Don’t be afraid of the pussy!

If you want to join the movement and take FoD to your city, you can find our more info HERE.

Artist Maria Kulikovska

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