Why are we still talking about this?


by Lia Da Giau, United World College Maastricht
14th April, 2019


I have a question: who thinks that vaginas are aesthetically pretty?
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I don’t. I really don’t.
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Maybe it’s because I have approached my sexual organ for the first time at sixteen years old, after a life in the bliss of ignorance around the true shape of a part of the body fundamental to me and my identity as an individual: I got shocked by the complexity of it, by the layers of skin and the appearance overall. My bad, I should have started to explore my body before, be curious, google my doubts: no product of a patriarchal mindset is involved this time. But. Before looking for an answer, questions need to arise and I have never had the instinct to know more about this specific field, to take a mirror and give a look down there, just like I have never felt the need to masturbate. At least, in the second case I am not alone: in most of the cases, women find out the pleasure of feeling pleasure by accident (maybe playing with the shower during primary or putting a tampon?) or only after the first sexual interactions. It’s quite sad, especially considering that an average boy starts to properly benefit of “the tool” since his early childhood.
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And here comes the second question: why has the instinct of getting to know my body and how it works, which should be natural, never been that natural?
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Maybe it’s a chain reaction: if I don’t explore and look for an answer, it’s difficult to be aware of all the features and functionalities that my organism has.
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Maybe the image of the vagina in the science book has always been enough to think I knew my friend down there pretty well. Unluckily, it’s not sufficient. Again, I ended up finding out that every vagina is unique and has its own shape and sensibilities only last year. At sixteen years old.
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Maybe it’s a matter of position. A vagina is definitely less exposed than a penis: you don’t bump into it, one has to have the intention to look at it and understand how it works. The same explanation applies to masturbation, as the interaction of a man with his sex is more immediate (it’s just there, you don’t need to dig to find it!), while female masturbation is more invasive and complicated as an art.
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Or maybe, as I came to hypothesise only now, it’s because of a taboo around the female body and sexuality that still persists. The male-dominant vision that historically and traditionally has characterised human communities, naturally impacts everyone, either directly and explicitly or through latent manifestations. Particularly in those contexts in which gender equality is strongly striven and partially achieved, it’s difficult to address the issue of years and years of patriarchy, as their effects are not that identifiable. As a western, liberal and extrovert (little) woman that potentially has any problem to discuss about her sexuality and what is related to it, I barely perceive the embarrassment or prohibition and I don’t feel the patriarchal tendencies in society as strong as my grandmother or my floor-mate from another part of the globe could do. Nevertheless, I am more and more convinced that the ignorance and mystery concerning the mentioned aspects can definitely be seen as a product of an established mindset, rooted at the point that it’s not even recognizable anymore. No one is to blame, but we need to be conscious of how easy is it to be blind, how, as it’s understandable, the culture of gender inequality in which we all grew up addresses and influences our thoughts and perceptions. A “gender inequality” that doesn’t take shape only in salary differences.
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Now, it might be your turn to ask a question: why am I talking about this?
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I wanted to tell you my version of feminism, a short story, as so far I don’t have a precise definition for this term.
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Still, why? It’s important to tell stories of different faces of feminism and feminists because too often “feminism” is misunderstood and feared, connected to its extremist side, a side that is only a small portion of the scenery and therefore should be in the background, leaving space on the stage to all the other connotations of the movement, which are many more than one could expect. A broader and colourful picture of feminism, collecting all its shades, has been painted, written, performed, danced by the voices and bodies of our community, under the direction of Elena, Fabian and Ellora. Indeed, “Why are we still talking about it?” is the title of the play that on Wednesday 13th March turned on the spotlight over the issue in our school. The script was a patchwork of stories from member of our communities who identify in the same label (“feminist”), in spite of the different meanings the word might have for them, conscious that there is not a single or wrong definition.
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By talking again about the topics of (in)equality, oppression, social constructs, sexuality, sometimes over-discussed, using art, the aim was to start a dialogue based on a new awareness and conception of them, a dialogue that wants to hear the stories of everyone.
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At this point, one last question is needed: do you have a story to tell?

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