Students at the University of Sydney wanted to challenge misrepresentations of vulvae in effort to create more body positivity. Their idea was to put exposed NSFW vulvae on the cover of their student newspaper Honi Soit. As you might expect the images were promptly censored because they violated “section 578 of the New South Wales’s Crimes Act, pertaining to the publishing of indecent articles.”
The Student Council of Honi Soit thought they were slick when they put bars on the vulvas, but the bars were deemed “too sheer” and the newspapers were ripped from the stacks and shelves! Travesty!
The students of Honi Soit released a statement on Facebook:
“Our original intention was to publish a cover which women would find empowering, not to do something controversial or sensational. We felt that the twin influences of pornography and censorship (for instance, the fact that the cunnilingus scene in Blue Valentine earned the film a more restricted rating than it would have if the film had depicted fellatio) meant that women attach shame or fear to their vaginas, and feel that they have to conform to a certain standard of beauty (small labia, etc.). The cover and the 18 vulvae were intended to say to women that they were normal, that it didn’t matter what they looked like, and that they didn’t always have to be sexual.”
Some of you may feel that the cover was too much while others may understand why the students are pissed. To those who fall into the former group consider this: what reasons do we have to cover, veil or conceal certain body parts besides the sets of rules each society creates about how we should perceive those parts? There are many who feel that burqas and niqabs are oppressive because they cover so much of a women’s body.
I ask, then how do we explain the way women’s bodies are covered up in other societies? In the U.S. men are allowed to show their breasts and women are not. In some cultures the belly can be exposed while other parts remain covered. In some places no body parts are covered at all. My point is that these rules we create about what parts of our bodies should be revealed are not rooted in anything but a fear of what our bodies might mean. The fear that they are sexual or ugly or even evil is perpetuated by our reluctance to see body parts as neutral elements of the human form. Sexuality is a mere projection, that’s why if you aren’t sexually attracted to a man you won’t see his penis as sexual and if you aren’t sexually attracted to a woman you won’t see her vagina as sexual. And if we are to censor things because they are sexual that only insinuates that there is something inherently negative about sex.
Whether you are on the students side or not, I think we should applaud them for attempting to challenge the status quo and beginning a discussion on more body positivity.
See the NSFW photos here.