Power of the penis – vigour of the vulva

When I was studying at Sussex University, I had a lesson in which we discussed the fact that everything on this earth is phallic. I can’t remember who the teacher was – but it certainly wasn’t one of my feminist modules, and it was definitely a man.

According to the OED phallic, or phallus, is derived from the Greek phallos meaning “to inflate, swell” – or, possibly, from phalle meaning ‘whale’. And if you Google the meaning, there are various etymologies and references to the penis having ‘generative power in nature’. But what about the power of the vagina?

The erect penis may be considered a weapon because of the ability a man has to use it to rape. But, abuse aside, the penis and vagina are traditionally designed to aid procreation. Both parts are required, both bodies have reproductive organs that play a vital, and equal, role. So I want to address the power that has for a long time been given to the penis – and to redistribute it.

It’s all rather Freudian and I’m sure, were he alive, he’d accuse me of having a simple bout of penis envy. But I don’t envy the penis or believe it to be superior to the vulva. And I don’t assign power to male genitalia anymore than I do to female genitalia.

And so, to prove my tutor at Sussex wrong, I’ve started looking for vaginas in everyday objects. Yes, a broom may appear phallic, but a lamp could be vulvic:

(the bowl – or shade – is the vagina, or the labia, the lightbulb – the clitoris)

And so could satsuma peel:

See also the vagina spelt loaf above.

I will continue to keep an eye out for vulvic everyday objects. Feel free to send me any that you spot.

I wrote a blog a while back (read it here) about artist Jamie McCartney, who had cast lots of vaginas to create The Great Wall of Vagina. I had been to see it and it was magnificent but we ended up having an online debate about his role as the caster of these vaginas and about why he chose to display so many erect penises – as if the vaginas weren’t bold enough on their own.

We need more artists like McCartney finding beauty and art in the vulva but without having to then remind us that the penis is powerful too.

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