Last week SBS showed this documentary about women’s quest for a ‘perfect vagina’ through plastic surgery. Why do women have their inner labia chopped off, why do women think their bits are abnormal or shameful, and how our culture fosters certain ideas about how female genitals should look like. Also, what can we do to reconcile ourselves with our bits?
In the process the film maker talks to men and women, younger women who are about to go under the knife and older women who were brought up to never ever mention the fact that they had vaginas. We meet plastic surgeons and the film maker goes on her own journey of self discovery, getting her bits cast in plaster for a huge artwork of a variety of vaginas, getting her bits looked at by a plastic surgeon, going to a women’s healing group and considering what sort of sex education and socialisation women should have in order to end up with a healthy body image and complete acceptance of their bits.
It seems that peer pressure, selective display of neat and small vaginas by the porn industry, to some degree waxing (which makes lips more visible), sometimes rude comments by inconsiderate men and cultural preoccupations with conformity underlie this trend towards vaginal plastic surgery. Has women’s liberation achieved anything – the legitimate question comes from the film maker herself. I guess we wouldn’t need films like this if it really has achieved everything, yet there is an undeniable truth to self determination too and that may just have to involve plastic surgery too.
The film strongly suggests, and I completely agree with this, that going for the surgeon’s ‘quick fix’ is definitely the wrong way of going about dealing with our own genitals. Women’s vaginas vary enormously and the images of tiny trimmed bits that porn often shows does a great disservice to our own self image. Many women with larger inner lips have no idea that their ‘size’ is perfectly normal and their bits are completely fine as they are. But it’s not between your legs, rather it’s between our ears really, and change in attitude requires work.
Even hymenoplasty gets a look in. It is practiced among Muslim girls in Western countries in order to conform to the pretty brutal expectations and double standards of their cultural background.. they are expected to be virgins and to bleed on their wedding night. Of course men have to perform no such feat. At this point the film veers to a more difficult cross-cultural territory. Even though to any liberal Western eyes the surgery is barbaric and sexist and appalling, for some Muslim women it is a question of life or death. Very interesting segment to watch and discuss!!
Funnily the artist who cast 400 vaginas ended up ‘re-uniting’ women with their own vaginas when they discovered that theirs were completely normal… just looking at the casts of many vaginas can show you the wonderful variation and diversity that your vagina fits in! Wish the young Muslim women could be liberated and get to this point. We even get to see a therapist in this doco who gets women together and gets them to show their bits to each other and laugh off their initial embarrassment that in the end gives way to acceptance and healing. They even get to talk to their vaginas (haven’t you done that? ) Good work!
On a final note, being a woman who has sex with other women, I have to say I have an immense appreciation of the diversity of pussies and also have a keen awareness that most of us have some hangups to deal with. Whenever I’m with a woman who doesn’t fully appreciate what they’ve got I do a little healing thing myself… I tell them how amazing and beautiful their bits look and show them my appreciation!!
You can go to SBS to watch the whole film (for the time being) click on the video on the right:
You can see a section from the film here.
And here’s a wonderful site for the adoration of large labia!! Seriously check this out!!!