Having made and studied art for quite a few years now, I find that issues in contemporary culture often lead my mind to wander to art historical references. “Binders full of women,” equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights – it all leads me back to art. For instance, over the centuries we’ve seen a consistent historical pattern of interest among male artists in representing the vagina – Leonardo da Vinci, Gustave Courbet, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Christian Schad, to name only a few (see also TimeOut New York’s recent survey of the vagina in art, heavily populated by male artists). But it’s only in recent decades that women artists have turned to the vagina as subject (object?).
Well I have to be honest with you all, unlike most of my fellow Nursing Clio authors, Carrie, Adam, and Ashley, I did not finish Vagina: A Biography. Each and every time I opened the book, with the full intention of reading a chapter, two to three pages in, I dozed off. I did manage, finally, to get through some of the chapters and in the end, I found myself not really caring about the vagina as a goddess. I had one thing in mind when I first started this piece, where I was going to discuss what sort of vagina my vagina wanted to be and then Tuesday night’s debate aired. Well wouldn’t you know it, Romney made the brilliant “binders full of women,” comment (it is has to be up their with “I like trees,” but maybe not), and it made me think about how it connects to Wolf’s book. Throughout history the vagina has been put into neat little categories, binders if you will, that have been used to define, stigmatize, and even defile women. Our vaginas have defined us as sex objects, mothers, weaker employees, and victims, while at the same time branded us emotional, irrational, and fragile. So how does this relate to Wolf, you ask? It’s simple, Wolf wants to place the vagina into another binder labeled “Vagina as Goddess,” and it is another category that in the end, will bite women in the ass. The vagina is NOT a goddess and therefore we are NOT goddesses.
It is day 3 of “Vagina Week” and today we hear from Ashley Baggett who discusses Wolf’s mysterious “mind-vagina” connection and the problematic analysis of Victorian medical history.
In reading Naomi Wolf’s Vagina, I could not help but focus on the immense problem with, among many things, the “mind-vagina connection.” She argues that an intense connection exists between the female mind and her vagina, a connection so deep that women’s sense of self, creativity, etc, are essentially controlled by their vaginas. My first reaction when I came across that phrase was to throw the book on the floor. Serious ramifications exist for such a claim, and as a self-proclaimed feminist, Wolf should have been aware of this. After I calmed down, I retrieved the book from the corner of the room and tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I found my initial response to be repeated over and over again. I wanted to scream “how can she not see this argument has been made already but to the detriment of women?!?”
Vagina Week continues! With this post by Adam Turner on Naomi Wolf’s use of Science! in her new book, Vagina: A Biography. Naomi Wolf uses a whole lot of science in her new book, Vagina: A Biography (perhaps more accurately called an autobiography). She lectures at length about the nervous system, stress responses, brain chemistry, and how all of these things seem to have their center in powerful mind-altering (heterosexual, vaginal) sex. Taking her personal experiences as a jumping-off point (itself a dubious scientific technique) Wolf references a wide variety of studies to make her argument that the vagina, broadly defined, is a driving force in women’s lives, responsible for their happiness, successful relationships, creativity, and existential health.
It is officially “Vagina Week” here at Nursing Clio. Carrie Adkins, Adam Turner, Ashley Baggett, Rachel Epp Buller, and Cheryl Lemus will each post their thoughts about Naomi Wolf’s new book, Vagina: A Biography, and dissecting some of Wolf’s claims about vaginas, orgasms, and female sexuality. Please consider posting your own thoughts in the comments section!
Carrie Adkins kicks off “Vagina Week” with an overall analysis of Wolf’s book: