News and Views
News and Views about the project.
After over two years in the making 101 Vagina is finally giving birth :)
101 Vagina – Book Launch and Exhibition
Date: Friday 22 March 2013
Venue: 1000 Pound Bend – 361 Lt Lonsdale St Melbourne
Times: Book launch event: 6m – 10pm | Exhibition: 10am – 10pm
101 Vagina is about breaking down the taboos and shame that many women feel around their genitals and bodies in general. It celebrates uniqueness and diversity, thereby confronting the lies we are told about what’s normal and where beauty lies.
The book comprises 101 beautiful black and white photos, accompanied by a message from or about each woman’s vagina to the world. 101 Vagina is therefore also very much about the sharing of story, experience and wisdom. The messages written by the women in the book (and on the blog) are candid and span the spectrum of emotions. They form a small compendium of women’s intimate experience with their own genitalia, sexuality and sometimes, the very essence of what womanhood means to them. It is these messages that give the book it’s depth and invite the reader to consider the subject more deeply.
The book launch event will be a mini Festival of the Vagina. Many other artists, educators and even politicians, will contribute to turn the evening into the kind of celebration that vaginas deserve, in stark contrast to the taboo with which they are burdened.
The exhibition will comprise the entire contents of the book and the book will be available for sale.
Toni Childs wrote the foreword for the book and will hopefully be able to attend (to be confirmed).
A small voluntary donation may be sought on the door to help cover event costs.
Festival of the Vagina: Book launch event
Spoken word : Dance : Art Installations : Vagina Monologue : Live Music : Video : Education : Burlesque : Vulva Cushion : Comedy : Victorian Roller Derby League : Chai : Vulva Muffins : And more :
: Women’s Health Victoria : Australian Sex Party :
As a point of curiosity, one of the galleries I applied to to host the exhibition was the No Vacancy gallery in the QV building. The gallery owner was happy to offer me the space but he was overruled by the actual building owners, Colonial First State (Commonwealth Bank) due to the nature of the exhibition.
Ironically the QV Centre is on the site of the old Queen Victoria Hospital. Their website (http://www.qvwc.org.au/about-us/history) has this to say about it’s history:
The Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital 1946 – 1987
The second era saw pioneering work in the field of women’s and children’s health, building on the great strides in women’s health care that had already made since the ‘Queen Vic’ was founded in 1896 ‘for women, by women’. During this era Dame Kate Campbell’s insights put the hospital at the forefront of work in the care of premature babies. Other notable firsts included the appointment of interpreters’ enabling hospital staff to be trained in up to 20 languages, the creation of Australia’s first midwife-led Birth Centre, gender dysphoria clinic and Centre Against Sexual Assault in the 1970s and an internationally renowned IVF programme pioneered by Dr Lorna Lloyd-Green.
“It should be the obstetrician’s duty to ‘seek to determine not what the woman can endure, but what she can accomplish.”
– Dr Lorna Lloyd-Green, ‘Queen Vic’ obstetrician
Before I even knew of this history I could see the media release headline in my minds eye:
“Commonwealth Bank rejects vagina exhibition.”
Well, it may still happen, keep your eye on the news ;)
Want to get your vagina art on?
The 101 Vagina book launch and exhibition would love to get your creative vagina juices flowing.
Are you a performer, musician, poet, painter, sculptor, muffin maker, etc?
Come share the space !
The event is tentatively scheduled over the weekend from Thursday 28 Feb to Sunday 3 March, with the actual book launch being on the Thursday evening, but performances and installations etc. are sought for the whole weekend, or any part of it.
Dates will firm up over the next few days.
Specific things on my wishlist that would be great to have:
- vagina cup cakes or similar (you could sell, or I pay for as part of catering)
- some spoken word / poetry
- music performances
- vagina costumes
- sculptures / jewellery / craft (you could sell?)
- event manager / MC
I am unlikely to be able to pay in cash, but I could certainly pay via exchange, i.e. give you a copy or two of the 101 Vagina book which will sell for $50 ea.
Please get in touch with me, Philip, via email@example.com
The crowdfunding campaign successfully wound up on 29 December 2012!
Big thanks to each and every person who contributed in any way whatsoever to this project over the last couple of years!
Now the work of actually getting the book out into the world begins.
This includes finalising the manuscript of the book, getting it printed, holding the book-launch and exhibition and then promoting, promoting, promoting.
In the mean time I have created a web shop where people can pre-order the book, for delivery around March 2013.
More news to follow soon.
Oh yeah! Just took delivery of 101 Vagina Calendars 2013.
Order yours now here: http://101vagina.com/calendar
Over the weekend (7-10 December 2012) the draft copy of 101 Vagina had a gentle outing at the Folk Rhythm and Life festival in North Eastern Victoria.
It was a bit scary putting the book out in public for the first time like this, but it turned out to be very heart warming to watch people engage with the book, often a couple or a few friends sitting together leafing through the pages and either reading silently or discussing the many and varied related issues.
Also very touching to see the book touch some people quite strongly, the book seems to carry a gentle power.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos at the festival but here is what was there and below are the messages people wrote in the note pad.
“What does my vagina have to say to the world? Hello child. You’re the best part of me. For Ben from Cass xx”
Finally someone wants to hear what I think! here goes….
This morning i was so Agitated! My Owner had me suffocated & trapped in a lace heat chamber!! After subjecting me to a Number of workshops & painting i was finally treated to An exciting excursion to the cool Refreshing Dam. YAY for me!
:) Lots of Love
“From my penis to it’s darling vagina.
Many places I have been, much warmth has this universe saturated me in, always hoping this will be my home. You hug me intensely, squeeze and squeeze and then relax. You want me to stay and there could be nothing I want more. Being close with you is the purpose of my whole day, I wish nothing but to share in your joy, give, and take from all our inglorious untold astral travels together. You are the gate and keeper to the only place that makes sense. You need nothing to understand me, your acceptance of me makes up for every wrong in the world, nothing else matters when you call for me. You have my every attention, I listen to you with my eyes, ears, my nose, and every inch of my intention, everything I am, is for you. My temple, I bow to you. You humble me and I thrive for/because of you.”
“Giver of human life
Wow so many things to say!!
All vaginas are beautiful in all their shapes & sizes. Everyone I have seen perfect in it’s own right.
Mine, wow, the joy & pleasure it brings! The fun, the liquid meltingness of interaction with myself or another.
I couldn’t live without my pussy :)
The delicate intricate nature of female orgasms, a special secret formula of each individual woman.
Vagina I couldn’t ask for more thank you!!
You’re the best.”
“Special life force!
Treasured, Loved & adored
* * *
What is the premise of the 101 Vagina coffee table book project and what inspired you to create it?
The main idea is to break the taboo around vaginas and ease all the body image shame in general. I was first inspired after reading the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler as it really highlighted how big an issue this really is. Our entire society is hobbled by these taboos and by this shame around our bodies.
Why do you think portraying pictures of vaginas, or even mentioning them, is still so taboo?
Yes, there is a bizarre juxtaposition where on the one hand sex and bodies are sensationalized and on the other, people feel ashamed and almost afraid of the simple realities of our bodies. Bikini clad women are plastered all around us and yet some people feel uncomfortable with women breast feeding in public. Something has gone wrong somewhere and I honestly don’t know how we ended up in this situation where people are afraid of the simple realities of their bodies. Perhaps vaginas are the ultimate symbol of vulnerability, openness, the feminine; all the things that the ideas of power, protection and control feel threatened by. But honestly I don’t know.
How do you think nude photography and seeing other women nude can help individuals overcome shame and issues with their own bodies?
Well, I think in particular when naked bodies are depicted as they are without Photoshopping, it helps deconstruct these marketing-driven ideals that have been rammed down our throats. If you see someone who is also imperfect, just like you, you feel validated in a way. Somehow it reminds you that, yes, they are OK, and therefore I’m OK.
I was at a nude beach recently and there was a woman who had obviously had a mastectomy. One of her breasts was missing a nipple and both breasts obviously had implants. It took me aback initially, but it was also very reassuring somehow that humans are somehow perfect in their imperfections. She was comfortable, probably having come to terms with it long ago. How unfortunate that we hide our imperfections from each other all the time, no wonder so many people are depressed, trying to live up to some stupid ideals of everlasting happiness and “beauty”.
Like with overly skinny models and Photoshopped, airbrushed celebrities, do you think porn puts forth the wrong image of what vaginas should look like and make women self-conscious about their own nudity? What negative side-effects have you seen related to this issue?
Well, I think this is an interesting issue and there are many sides. “Porn,” comes in so many different variations, and anyone that’s had a bit of a look around will have seen many different looking vaginas. Yes, in mainstream porn most women are shaved, for example, but home made porn seems to be becoming more popular where ordinary people are just the way they are. Again the problem with porn has been that it’s been market driven, rather than community driven. Look at music these days. The big marketing machines are being circumvented by everyone being able to make and upload their own music. It means people are making what they love, rather then just what the big bosses say sells records. I think ultimately the same will happen with porn, people will just make their own and the big end of town will loose it’s grip.
But coming back to your question, yes, certainly anything which presents an unreal image to the world will lead people to believing that they themselves are not normal. In Australia we have the terrible situation that soft core porn mags have to airbrush vaginas into a thin slit. No labia are allowed to show. It’s ludicrous. Women end up believing that they themselves are not normal and seek out plastic surgery. It’s so, so sad that a teenage girl might think her vagina does not look the way it’s “supposed” to look.
Besides an inaccurate representation of “normal,” what other reasons have you seen for women being ashamed of their bodies and their vaginas?
Yes, besides all the women’s magazines, porn, etc? Well, there is also peer pressure isn’t there. So many of the older school feminists blame men for everything, but so often the pressure to conform comes from other girls in school or other women in social circles. Most people want to fit in and be accepted and conform. But this is also where things can change. Often it only takes one person to break out from a group and say, “I’m happy with how I am and I don’t think we need to all look the same” for the whole dynamic to change. And this requires courage.
How does portraying vaginas help pave the way for discussion of “taboo” topics like rape and genital mutilation?
Well, I think to a degree there is an indirect knock on effect. If someone feels more comfortable with their bodies as a result of surrounding themselves with positive messages then they will feel more empowered to talk about things. It may be easy to talk about rape or genital mutilation from an academic perspective, but it takes a lot of courage to talk about your own experience of having been violated.
So, for example, say someone has suffered some sort of abuse, or they have some difficulty with their sexuality but they have never spoken about it. Then at some point they come across a “vagina positive” book and they realize that they perhaps don’t need to be so ashamed. They may, perhaps, open up to someone about their experience and that could trigger a huge healing cycle for them. Or someone has an irregularity that they ought to get checked out at the doctor but they feel embarrassed, etc. Shame prevents us from talking about things. Seeing material which unashamedly addresses that issue will help ease people’s shame.
Remember also that with 101 Vagina, in particular, there is also a message that accompanies every photo. These messages are so diverse, and really it is these stories that give the book it’s depth.
Who are the models for the Vagina 101 project? Was it a big step for some of them to be photographed nude and what were their reactions to their pictures?
It started with friends. However, after a few months I had only taken a few photos and I realized I needed to ramp things up. That’s when I built the website and Facebook page. I invited every woman I knew in Melbourne, and then things spread from there. Before long the word got out and complete strangers came in to participate. I think the project has really struck a chord with a lot of people.
Still, for some women it was definitely a big step! One friend of mine was actually trembling with fear before hand. It was like these huge tectonic plates were shifting within her, shifting her feelings of shame, so for her it was massively courageous. Other women who participated were already very comfortable with their bodies, for example from having done life modelling in the past. So it varied a lot, but for most women there was at least a little discomfort, a little awkwardness, a little hurdle that they each overcame.
The two most common reactions to seeing the photos were, “Wow, that’s so beautiful!” and “Oh, is that what I look like!?”. So it was mainly appreciation and fascination. And the same has been true for seeing photos of the other women. Everyone is so fascinated to see all the different shapes and sizes! I love watching people as they por over a draft copy of the book, getting completely engrossed in the images and the messages.
We understand you are self-publishing the book as of now and raising funds for its first print run. After the book is printed, what kind of reception do you foresee?
Oh, if only I had a crystal ball. So far people have been incredibly positive and supportive and I hope that will continue. Obviously I’d love the book to go as far as it can to have as large an impact as possible. I’d love to get on talk shows, radio shows, etc. Oprah? Ellen? I don’t even know who’s doing what really, I don’t have a TV myself, but yes, I’d love it to go big. And the bigger the better since $5 from every book will go towards women’s charities. But I understand the reality that ultimately no one cares about your project as much as you do. Never mind, if I only sell 100 copies so be it. In a way the project has already been successful because it has already touched a lot of people’s lives.
Where can our readers go to learn more and how can they support the project?
Please visit the crowdfunding page to support the project here: http://pozible.com/101vagina.
In addition to the 101 Vagina project, you’re also selling a 2013 vagina calendar to raise funds for the One Billion Rising event protesting violence against women. Tell us more about it. How did you get involved, and how does this event’s message relate to 101 Vagina’s goal of erasing the taboo surrounding women’s bodies?
Yes, it’s an interesting union and one that some people may find a bit jarring, but I really believe that we need to take an unflinching look at the causes of sexual abuse rather than simply lament and be outraged at it’s occurrence. I strongly believe that sexual repression and sexual aggression/abuse are connected. I just don’t think that anyone who is truly comfortable in their sexuality would ever impose themselves on another person. Rape and abuse are NOT expressions of sexual freedom, but of sexual repression. And sexual repression is closely related to body image shame and taboos.
One Billion Rising is a V-Day event, and V-day was founded by Eve Ensler who wrote The Vagina Monologues, so it’s already a natural fit. I got involved because I already knew about V-day and One Billion Rising, and when some friends of mine started planing to organize an event in Melbourne I jumped on board. Regarding the calendar, well I figured that the media often like controversial calendars that are raising money for good causes, so this might be a way to raise the funds needed to stage the event in the most visible place in Melbourne. It’s not cheap, we’ve got to come up with $20,000 and are also looking for corporate sponsors. For this event we can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Release: 26 November 2012
Vagina calendar raising funds for protest against violence towards women and girls
Toni Childs and One Billion Rising (V-Day) event organisers in Melbourne, Australia, in cooperation with the 101 Vagina Project, have released a 2013 Vagina Calendar to raise funds for a unique kind of protest.
On February 14, 2013 people around the globe will rise up and dance their protest against violence towards women and girls. We are inviting you to join the global campaign. Spearheaded by Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of V-Day, One Billion Rising has created a platform for women and men around the world to be seen and heard as they protest the reality that 1 in 3 women will suffer violence and exploitation in their lifetime (http://onebillionrising.org).
Toni Childs, three-time Grammy nominated recording artist, Emmy Winner, and long time advocate of women’s empowerment: “I am excited about coming together as a Nation to honor the women of Australia! It is time to heal and evolve and affirm that we as a Nation can create a violence free society! I believe in us, and I believe in the power and the deep wisdom that lives inside each one of us. I believe in the power to heal what has been broken in us, and to stop the ancestral cycles of abuse that we live with. We’re at the point of change… The cycle stops with each and every one of us!”
Coming out and standing up is a declaration and a resonance that ripples through us, our personal relationships, our society and the world! Valentines Day 2013 is about making the plausible possible… !!”
The event is to be held at Federation Square for maximum visibility, thereby challenging the invisibility of this issue.
One Billion Rising Melbourne even page: http://onebillionrising.org/
One Billion Rising Melbourne Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/
Dr Lauren Woodman, who also organises the Seven Sisters Festival feels that: “One Billion Rising is such a beautiful, empowering concept, we felt inspired by it’s vision and wish to support this global celebratory protest. We would love to shake the ground with Melbourne’s support of this issue by shaking, stomping & dancing ‘No’ to violence against women.”
The calendar itself will consist of 12 black and white photos from the upcoming 101 Vagina coffee-table book. Each image is accompanied by a message, from each woman, about her vagina.
101 Vagina was inspired by The Vagina Monologues out of which the V-Day Foundation and One Billion Rising sprang. It’s about breaking down the taboos around vaginas in particular and body image shame in general. It’s also about celebrating diverse bodies and raising funds for charity (http://101vagina.com).
Philip Werner, creator of the 101 Vagina project and organiser of Melbourne’s recent peace march in honour or Jill Meagher, says: “Sexual repression and sexual abuse are directly related and the taboos around our bodies and genitalia contribute to this repression. We enter the world through the vagina at conception and at birth. Vaginas are sacred, this taboo must end.”
Jenna Price, one of the women behind the Destroy the Joint movement, which the organisers wholeheartedly support, interviewed Werner for this Fairfax Media article: http://goo.gl/zWyiT
Federation Square charge $20,000 to provide all the necessary infrastructure and services for the event.
$10 from the sale of every calendar will go towards the One Billion Rising event and corporate sponsors are also being sought to meet event costs.
One Billion Rising Melbourne organisers:
– Toni Childs (Emmy award winning singer/songwriter)
– Tamar Spatz (Teacher & women’s rights activist)
– Dr Lauren Woodman (Seven Sisters Festival event organiser)
– Dr Caroline Lambert (Women’s human rights advocate)
– Philip Werner (Photographer, 101 Vagina project)
Purchase the 2013 Vagina Calendar here: