May 23, 2010

Is empowerment found in a "pink disco ball" vagina?

Guest post by Marley P with Melanie K.

Jennifer Love Hewitt  recently appeared on “Lopez Tonight” promoting her new dating book and simultaneously bragging about how her vagina looks like a “pink disco ball”.  Vajazzling has become not only one of the most searched terms on google but the newest below the belt “beautification” procedure in which the vagina is waxed bare and then embellished with Swarovski crystals. According to Love, she vajazzled her “precious lady” for the first time after a painful breakup and is now a proud advocate of a shiny, blinged-out crotch.

I initially heard about vajazzling from a girlfriend of mine who works at a medical spa who recently tried out the product as a way to see what all the buzz is about.  The jewels supposedly stay in tact for two weeks and are a simple way to bling out and embellish your otherwise boring lower region– just like a celebrity.  She is going strong on day five and reports feeling “accessorized”.

Personally, I don’t understand the interest in bedazzling your “lady parts”.  In fact, the cons seem to outweigh the pros in my book. I guess I could understand the appeal if the jewels somehow improved the quality of the sexual experience but the possibility of condoms tearing, the possibility of irritation or a misplaced crystal seem like an uncomfortable (not to mention unnecessary) burden to have to think about when engaging in sex.  Vajazzling poses as a seemingly benign procedure, that works to promote sexual empowerment but I can’t help but think that it is really promoting quite the opposite.  It is just the icing on the cake of “pink think” consumerism, isn’t it?   The beauty industry runs on selling women an innate insecurity and notion that self worth is implicitly tied to what we look like and simultaneously co-opts feminist ideals of empowerment as a way to sell a product.  We are not being sold empowerment; in fact, we are being dooped into believing that empowerment and liberated sexuality can be bought at a medical spa (that is, if you can afford it).

Though vajazzling is a somewhat recent fad, the concept of female up-keep and maintenance however, is nothing new.  Shaving, trimming, waxing, and douching have become normal routines for women to counter the notion that their bodies are unattractive naturally and therefore need to be modified. I am not arguing whether women should or should not shave, that is personal preference of course, but I think it is necessary to deconstruct the constant barrage of judgmental messages towards women based first and foremost on how they look (and which inevitably lead to a norm of body bashing and cultural body snarking). There is an exponential rise in procedures such as labiaplasty and vaginal rejuvenation which according to the South Coast Urogynechology center, “resurfaces and tightens the tissues to reclaim the youthful appearance and function of the vulvar and vaginal area”.  This is not only baffling to me but it completely supports the idea that a woman is only beautiful if she conforms to a specific aesthetic. Most women who elect to pay for vaginal reconstruction are in search of a “prettier pussy,” meaning a “younger looking” vagina, one that is usually shaved  and resembles that of a porn star.

Our fixation on youth has reached new lows. Thanks to Brazilian waxes, everything is exposed and scrutinized. Back in the ’70s, liberated women used to squat over hand mirrors and have a look at their nether regions; these days they bring photos of porn stars to their plastic surgeons and say, “Make me look like this.”

In Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy deconstructs the norm of raunch culture and begs the question:

How is imitating a stripper or porn star- a woman whose job is to imitate arousal in the first place- going to render us sexually liberated?

The simple answer is that it’s not.  Feminism is about making conscious choices and having an abundance of knowledge as the foundation to make those choices, but the truth is that the constant cultural emphasis on beauty and male satisfaction skews our ability to make good decisions. As a culture, we are obsessed with “perfecting” women’s bodies (and reaping mega profits) that a never-ending array of endless products and/or procedures are touted as a way to feel wanted, beautiful, loved, valued, etc. In the process, we have lost the most important connection to our bodies and the recognition that we are beautiful sans procedures and products.  We have forgotten that true empowerment and validation can only come from within oneself. Then again, feeling good on our terms does not help with the corporate bottom line.

If vajazzlng is indeed a way to make the vagina look more appealing (which is quite the ridiculous notion all in itself) and provide a sense of empowerment, then I’ve got to ask, where the hell did we go wrong in thinking that the most beautiful, life-giving and pleasure giving part of a woman’s body needs crystals to be sexy? And why aren’t there vajazzling equivalents for men to make their dicks more appealing?  The willie warmer doesn’t count.  We need more Georgia O’Keefe representations of the vagina in which the innate beauty and diversity is glorified and celebrated.

Not only do we need to stop believing the lie that our bodies are not desirable unless we modify every inch, conforming to a homogeneous beauty norm that leaves more and more women looking the same (same face, same breasts, and now same vagina), we need to stop being sold the idea that female empowerment results from our nether regions. That sort of  misguided “do-me feminism,” along with the “rise of raunch culture” has not liberated women from opressive patriarchal forces, defining women’s worth in bodily terms. In fact, as Zeisler states, in her discussion of Levy’s 2005 book:

women themselves were turning to self-objectification in shocking numbers, noting that the signifiers of what she called “raunch culture” — strip aerobics classes, T-shirts printed with the words porn star, Girls Gone Wild, and more — had been adopted by women themselves. But rather than leading to real freedom, women’s adoption of “raunch culture” simply duplicated patterns of disdain for and objectification of women.

Is empowerment  found in a waxed vagina that looks like a pink disco ball?  Come on, we can do better than that.


6 Comments »

  1. Beautifully said, empowerment is found in self acceptance and self love. It cannot be found in one night stands, “beauty” products, or sparkly vulvas. True empowerment, true feminism, is found is trusting and celebrating the amazing power of the female body. We have been trained to mistrust and dislike our bodies and convinced we have to constantly work to be rid of all inconveniences (i.e. periods, hair, wrinkles, breast milk, etc). I say “beauty” be damned, lets focus on health, happiness, and our innate strength.

    So proud of you kiddo, eres una inspiracion!

    Comment by Chelsea K Poyo-Nieto — May 23, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  2. Hilarious and brilliant! I couldn’t help but laugh as I agreed with it everything stated. I’m guilty of being influenced by the media and feeling like I have to resort to beauty products in order to look better or have a “pretty vagina”… hahaha. But I also agree that it is important for women (especially young girls) to begin realizing that self acceptance/respect begins with the acceptance of our own image-including: body shape, body size and vagina appearance. I agree with Chelsea! Let’s focus on the issues that truly matter. What good is it to have a younger, prettier or tighter vagina?! If you won’t be able to make use of it because you decided beauty products were more important than your physical health and comfort.

    Comment by Alma N. — May 25, 2010 @ 8:41 am

  3. http://syntheticpubes.com/post/589891682/this-insightful-australian-report-draws-a (When I posted this video on facebook I gave it a “EEEEEW!” warning, so beware if you’re medically squeamish or… well, I want to say “if you’re a woman,” but that sounds patronizing.)

    This is what labiaplasty looks like and how it is achieved. I was more than a bit surprised to see the connection between censorship and the rate at which women get it done (and I think that particular link is overblown in the video,) but it truly is sad that most women rarely see other women naked in person to develop a sense of what “normal” really is.

    As for vajazzling, I can understand the visual appeal, but I’m not a bling fan even for the usual spots like fingers, necks, and earlobes. This looks like something done by women mostly for themselves.

    Comment by jon — May 28, 2010 @ 6:12 am

  4. [...] bracelet intact and instead emulate the muse. Vajazzle the hell out of that precious lady. Hang a pink disco ball from it. Refuse to wear pants in public or at modeling gigs and never sit with your legs crossed. I [...]

    Pingback by Lindsay Lohan, Trashed on Cough Syrup, Forgots About Existence of Photoshop « Hidden Leaves — May 28, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

  5. This is exactly the thing that keeps women from achieving sexual intimacy with their mates. Personally, those little jewels would be grating against my man’s body-how is intimacy achieved with those gems scraping away at a mate’s skin? Once again it’s about the “bedazzling” the female’s outside rather than ecstasy being achieved inside… reminds me of the doctor referenced on Jezebel who is surgically cutting 6-10 year old’s clitorises-with the girls’ parents approval-so they aren’t “big”
    http://jezebel.com/5565895/cornell-surgeon-used-vibrator-to-stimulate-6+year+olds
    Why is our society obsessed with altering women’s sexuality when it is the beautiful origin of life’s birth?

    Comment by JessicaO — June 20, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

  6. WTF – and I though J. L. Hewwitt had some sense, was this a adre or a prank on her part?

    Comment by Ian French — July 25, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

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