It made me glad to see singer and songwriter Janelle Monáe’s ‘vagina pants’ this week in her “PYNK” video. Just search for the artist and “vagina pants” / “vulva pants” to take a look, or go onto Youtube. I admit that I would not have been aware of this it were not for the publicity, being over thirty (ahem). But it was cheering.
In the video Monáe and some of her backing dancers wear pairs of pants (trousers) that are bold, vibrant, frilly, and, unmistakably, represent a vagina and vulva. In case you were in any doubt, a friend pops her head between the singer’s labial thighs at some point in the video. The pants are ‘out there’ and they’re great. Nothing is subtle. Good. Other sections of the video show the young women in slogan panties – “I grab back”: you have to like that one. There also appears to be a pro-pubic hair statement (good again), with tufts of the fluffy stuff peeking out the hems. Bold imagery abounds. The scene-stealing pants are the work of Dutch designer Duran Lantink – or so Vanity Fair magazine via Professor Google informs me.
A lot of the comments under the official video are supportive of this display of female (and lesbian) empowerment, as are many media commentators. But some others, including on social media… I’m not sure how seriously to take the comments, but ‘trashy’, ‘lacks grace and class’, ‘vulgar’?
Oh please. We’ve been putting up with the male phallus everywhere we look for centuries. The phallus has been a fertility symbol the world over – the Hohle Fels phallus in Germany at 28,000-year-old years old; Kfar HaHoresh figurines in modern-day Israel, dating to 8,500 – 6,750 B.C.; certain well-endowed images of the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris… Today, joke-shop ‘willies’ (wangs) abound. Men have recreated their nether portions in buildings on a gigantic scale. Okay, I am in a juvenile mood, but take a look at this item from Ranker.com for example, on buildings that look like penises and join me in a childish snigger. So why not a few vulvas about the place?
More seriously, I’ve noted before (here) the study by the Eve Appeal that found many women, when asked, couldn’t identify their own sexual and reproductive parts on a diagram (for example sixty-one per cent could not identify their vulva). This bashfulness has implications for women’s health and for sexual well-being. And sexual enjoyment too.
A few years ago another ‘vagina-related’ clothing item was in the press: some ‘anatomically detailed’ vagina pants (panties) designed by student Eleanor Beth Haswell, a member of the Clandestine Collective, as part of a project created in response to female shaming online. The project was entitled ‘Why are you so afraid of your own anatomy?’ A good question.
’28 Phallic Buildings That Look Way Too Much Like Dicks’, Ranker.comm https://www.ranker.com/list/phallic-buildings-that-look-like-penises/nathandavidson
‘The most anatomically correct ‘vagina pants’ you’re ever likely to see’, in The Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2014, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10982423/British-students-vagina-pants-are-anatomically-correct.html
Emma at DreamDate http://www.flickr.com/photos/152118633@N04/40668193642 1960’s vintage lilac bubble knickers via http://photopin.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/