The Three Graces

Why Is Female Genitalia Not Depicted In Art As Heavily As Their Male Counterpart?

In the art world today, many artists are pushing the boundaries of what art is, along with the process of creating such masterpieces. This current decade’s contemporary art movement has seen some of the most interesting styles either rise or come back to prominence. The Inquisitr reported on such styles, from Mike Dargas being one of the artists to bring back hyperrealism to Maria A. Aristidou using coffee as her medium.

Despite the daring and dynamic direction art has taken over the years, there is one detail that is still considered a taboo in the art community: the artistic display of female genitalia. Its restriction has been argued among artists for decades, especially with the fact penises can be artistically displayed without inhibition, as proven by ancient Greek art. So why is female genitalia heavily censored compared to their male counterpart? Apparently, it has to do with societal perception.

According to an artistic opinion piece by Syreeta McFadden of the Guardian, which was followed-up by Alternet, the artistic view of female genitalia was eventually associated with shame and ignorance.

“The surviving sculptures enforced Greek male ideals of the female body, and recorded history shows a shift in attitudes toward women. Sex and female sexuality were now rendered as symbols of shame, carnality became inconsistent with ‘reason,’ and reverence for fertility in the culture was shattered.”

Given further insight, it seems men of the time felt masculinity was attacked by artistic depictions of female genitalia. It is believed that such a belief of an attack is that the feminine is historically viewed as origins for mankind and strength. The original story of Easter, which highlights the return of Astarte, the fertility goddess Inanna, and even the Venus of Willendorf are a testament to this. As a result, men throughout history have stigmatized female genitalia. One such stigma is linking literacy to masculinity, as argued by Leonard Schlain in his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. In it, he states the alphabet of antiquity correlated with cultural shift in the treatment of women. Both Plato and Aristotle believe in such, thus seeing women as inferior.

However, a new artistic movement to recognizing female genitalia as a strong and viable subject in art is rising. Georgia O’Keeffe supported the movement through her obsession of painting flower petals, while Gustave Courbett embraced realism of depicting female genitalia in his piece, The Origin of the World. Also, Hannah Wilke supported such through her unique sculptures of erasers and gum pieces into vaginal shapes.

Jamie McCartney GWOV
Jamie McCartney is the artist who created a piece known as the “Great Wall of Vagina,” which consists of molds of vaginae from 400 women.

Probably the biggest reason why such an issue was brought up for discussion recently in the art world is because of a recent artwork made by Jamie McCartney. According to Mirror, McCartney used 400 plaster casts of female genitalia — consisting of women aged 18 to 76 — to create what is known as The Great Wall of Vagina. It is a 26-foot long sculpture and was revealed in Boulder, Colorado, as part of the Red Tent Revival women’s festival.

It should also be noted that throughout the Great Wall of Vagina‘s creation, Jamie McCartney encountered different kinds of women over a course of five years, as reported by Huffington Post. Identical twins, transgender women, pre and postnatal women, and pre and post-labiaplasty patients are all shown on the wall. This is quite important for McCartney’s goal to change female body image through his art.

“This is about grabbing the attention, using humor and spectacle, and then educating people about what normal women really look like.”

Such a purpose for an art piece is sure to break down certain restraints that have been up in the art community for way too long. Jamie McCartney, along with the aforementioned artists, are or have created artwork that will help usher in a new acceptance — but only after people are no longer ashamed to look at such art.

[Featured Image via Wikipedia Commons, Post Image via Jamie McCartney]

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