Raise awareness while playing a game
Finding pairs of matching vulvas while losing feelings of shame, prejudice and fear of contact: PUSSY PAIRS aka MUMURY. This game not only requires memory skills, but also some general brain work: The erasing and condemnation of female-read genitalia is deeply ingrained in the human mind and an expression of the structural disadvantages of women and gender non-conforming persons in a patriarchal society.
Creating and publishing unconventional hybrid projects in the context of social culture in Vienna: art, design and cookbooks, fiction, experimental book forms, annual artists’ series, calendars, online formats and everything odd, aesthetic or unimaginable. ACHSE promotes the development and expansion of a European network that questions current structures and shapes the future book market.
Gloria Dimmel has been manufacturing vulva replicas within weekly sessions in Vienna, Austria, since 2017 where participants share their experiences and thoughts on social norms, sexuality, body image, gender roles, feminism and politics in a safe space. 18 vulva models were chosen for this memory game. By now more than 500 women and gender non-conforming people participated in the overall project.
Safe Hands for Girls
Parts of the profits of PUSSY PAIRS aka MUMURY will be donated to the organisation Safe Hands for Girls, which was founded in 2013 by Jaha Dukureh, a young Gambian woman. The organisation works in The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Atlanta USA, fighting FGM and child marriage. Their work combines grassroots activities with high-level advocacy.
Vagina, vulva, clitoris – some people flinch when they hear these words. What comes more easily to the lips are belittling, erasing or vulgar terms such as cunt, pussy, downstairs or the German mumu (I simply couldn’t refrain from using the eponymous pun in the title). Words like these have a familiar ring to them. They have an alienating and distancing effect and help us forget that nearly every human being was born from a vagina. Along with erasing, oversexualising, defaming and mystifying the genitals of female-read persons in order to maintain distance, comes a valuation, visible already solely in the verbal treatment of the topic. The underlying logic suggests that darker, larger labia negatively connote promiscuity or old age, while tiny, light pink labia evoke associations of purity and virginity. It was only a few years ago that sciences and popular media re-discovered that the clitoris was a complex, nerve-rich organ solely for the sensation of pleasure. Whether this is even taught in school is questionable as the vagina’s reproductive function usually is the centre of attention. No wonder that myths persist about the deadly sting of the clitoris, or that the uncut clitoris will grow to the size of a penis. In some traditions hymens are surgically reconstructed, in others parts or the entire external female-read genitals are mutilated in order to guarantee womxn’s virginity and marriageability. Under the pretext of saving womxn from economic ruin or social marginalisation, sexual autonomy and pleasure are severely restricted in favour of reproduction, and higher risks of infection and death.
The permanent capitalistic self-improvement doesn’t stop at the genitals even in the Global North. Whether vaginal bleaching, lifting or Brazilian waxing – the vulva has been ruled by trends for quite a while. It’s no surprise that surgical labia reduction has become one of the most frequent types of plastic surgery worldwide. Of course womxn should decide for themselves how to feel most comfortable in and with their bodies – and overly-extended labia can significantly impact that sense of well-being. What cannot be ignored along the way, however, is how these kinds of doubts and competitiveness amongst women arise, and how the topic of “female-read genitals” is handled on a social level. Keeping quiet is not a solution because it keeps affected people in a broader context from pointing out injustice, from reporting assaults and from demanding the respectful, sexually-fulfilling or medical treatment they deserve. What is really needed are linguistic, societal and political recognition; information and education; as well as economic and structural measures working actively to bring about gender equality.
These facts might not be particularly new, but as a whole they are quite alarming. However, with my art project I want to raise awareness of the topic “vulva” – to make it visible, to normalise it and to contribute to the dissolution of associated myths and taboos. In regular vulva casting sessions, participating people with vulvas – to whom I owe the utmost gratitude – have the opportunity to share their thoughts on gender roles, body image, sexuality and identity, while courageously taking off their pants or skirts and celebrating their genitals collectively, and in an artistic context. More often than not, similar thoughts are behind feelings of shame and self-doubts. Relating these back stories and opening up connects women and people of all genders and strengthens a sense of community and solidarity. Even though the terminologies of many languages practically call for it (i.e. the german "shame lips": What is it that one should be ashamed of? It is time for an end of heteronomy and objectification through the male gaze. It is time for the beginning of an era of self-love and sexual autonomy.
In 2017, I poured plaster into a mold of my genitals for the first time, and made a replica of my vulva. It was a true “wow” moment to see my vulva from a different perspective than from above or in a mirror. Okay, the skin colour differs from the organic original, thus experiences of discrimination cannot be grasped; it lacks elasticity and softness – on the other hand, all kinds of wrinkles, gaps, pores and razor bumps can be seen. Unfortunately, pubic hair isn’t always properly depicted either with the materials, though it is important to mention that these vulvas aren’t shaved 24/7. Still, piercings can be seen, same as the end of a menstrual cup. Besides that, the depicted vulvas are scaled down by around 20-30% and their owners are of various age categories.
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Geschäftsführer gewerberechtlich: Aram Haus; Sitz der Gesellschaft: Wien; Firmenbuch: FN 469611 f; Gericht: HG Wien; UID-Nr: ATU72232256; Mitglied der Wirtschaftskammer Wien, Fachgruppe Buch- und Medienwirtschaft; Tag der Gewerbeanmeldung: 11.04.2017