It could be argued, albeit with a healthy dose of irony, that with Trump and his grubby ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ bragging and the ensuing pussy hat retaliation/revolution, the vagina is finally having its time in the spotlight, but it is remarkable how invisible the vagina still is in popular culture.
Ignored by most of mainstream culture, which still seems fond of making sweeping generalisations in regards to female sexuality while paying scant attention to the details, it was a refreshing change to see a festival programme with ten short films dedicated to that most misunderstood of body parts: the vagina. Hats off to the programmer who held the event at the former Reardon’s snooker hall, a rather fitting tongue in cheek move whether consciously done or not. Private Parts, a four-minute animated film by Anna Ginsburg was the first to be shown and eased the audience into proceedings with its honest, diverse and funny animated genitals chatting about masturbation, sexuality and vaginas. Each voice was visualised by a different animator which made the film both exciting and spontaneous, with lots of visual gags to enjoy along the way. In fact, it was the animated films that I found to be the most memorable of the evening. Pussy, an eight-minute animated film by Polish director Renata Gasiorowska, is a funny, moving and thought provoking story of a girl whose attempts at masturbation fail until she finally recognises that her vagina is a living, breathing part of herself. Of course, the fact that her vagina actually leaps off her body and rubs itself against some pleasurable and not so pleasurable things means that it is as funny as it is moving when she finally orgasms.
One of the most powerful films of the programme was I Was Five When I Became a Woman by Maryam Tafakory, which, through images of cutting and sewing material, explored the experiences of young women forced to undergo female genital mutilation. It was an often harrowing film and one which uses usually benign sewing sounds and gestures to echo the voices of the women and girls to powerful effect. Borders by Elizabeth Mizon also used personal insight to highlight the trauma that can be inflicted on women in the name of virtue, highlighting the hushed-up virginity tests that female migrants were subjected to in the UK in the 1970s. It is a hard ask to follow such pieces without silencing those voices, however the next films were well placed to develop the theme of how the vagina, misunderstood and abused throughout the ages, could begin to speak out. A Brief History of Princess X by Gabriel Abrantes is an eccentric, lively film exploring the nascent study of female sexuality, and the pitfalls of psychoanalysis. This was followed by The Clitoris by Lori Malepart-Traversy, an animated film with a message: that for too long the clitoris has been sidelined, and now it was high time we begin to understand it. Pussy Have the Power by the Swedish director Lovisa Siren, told the story of sisterly solidarity and how easily it can turn into a binary opposition which does no good for anyone.
The evening ended with a visual smorgasbord of vaginas and orgasms in Kaleidogasm 3 by Ms Naughty before being topped off by Glazin’ by Lucas Leyva and Jillian Mayer, a four-minute music video of sorts with vaginas dressed up in all kinds of ways and with all kinds of wigs, which just goes to show that even if you think you’ve got the low down on the vagina, there’s always plenty more to learn and celebrate.
Photo by Jassy Earl.