What can a set of watercolor vaginas tell us about womanhood and beauty standards?
The other day I was at a party talking to a friend who is also a digital artist. During the conversation, she showed me her work on social media platforms and told me how this project has given her more work opportunities than she expected, and that she was considering to focus only on doing personal artwork instead of advertisement for companies. It was all pretty random, until one person joined the conversation and told her it was all great, but why do modern artists are so obsessed with showing vaginas on their work. No, I'm not making this stuff out. My friend gave a very interesting answer, pointing out to the fact that artists are now exploring sexual freedom. However, after thinking of the question that person made, I'd rather ask, why not showing them?
As if destiny wanted me not to forget about the matter, I came across a very interesting Instagram account I had to share with you immediately, and that’s The Vulva Gallery. The profile is filled with watercolor illustrations portraying vulvas of all shapes and colors to show the world the immense diversity of womanhood and, more importantly, the beauty of it. After doing some research on the project, I found out interesting things about it, which I think are very important to deal with at this time because, believe it or not, it's still a huge taboo to talk about such natural things like a woman’s vagina.
The project began in 2016 by the Amsterdam based illustrator Hilde Atalanta. After reading an article on how labiaplasties have increased dramatically in the past decade, she got interested in knowing the core of this phenomenon. As you might imagine, the reasons why so many women decide to put their body under that invasive process is for esthetic purposes coming from the idea that there’s only one ideal standard for vulvas to look like. The shocking part was that the number of underage girls that are undergoing through this has increased so much that I can't help but wonder how much do beauty standards harm women.
If you take a look at the project’s official website, there’s a section devoted to messages sent to the artist regarding her art collection. There are tons of accounts telling how bad and insecure they felt because their vulvas didn't look like the ones portrayed in films (especially porn) and art; however, the project has shown them there’s nothing wrong with them. In fact, all these images show that there are as many different types of vulvas as there are people in the world.
Yes, it’s normal to be a bit insecure about our bodies at some point in our lives, especially with the constant amount of messages telling us how we should look in every aspect of our lives, but what labiaplasty records show goes way beyond this. They reveal the social pressure women are going through to achieve irrational beauty standards that could even risk their lives.
The Vulva Gallery not only shows how diverse the female body can be. It’s made with such a great taste and care that it encourages us to love our body as it is, and not in comparison to others. It’s amazing the way a beautiful message can be conveyed so easily and so strongly with just some images. In an ideal scenario, everyone would be commenting and sharing these amazing watercolors.
If you want to see more of this project, take a look at the official Instagram account: @the.vulva.gallery
For more art, take a look at these: