|Photograph by Ana Alvarez-Errecalde|
“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Proust
At a recent women’s Dream Group a member showed photos of a real human vagina, about ten on one page. I had an immediate reaction of disgust and anger and a frisson of fear – a collective response, no doubt. Unmediated response: that’s disgusting, why would you show us real life photos of a vagina? I felt put upon and angry that I had to be exposed to such explicit images. All sorts of questions arose: Why would she take photos of a vagina? What’s the point? Why am I being exposed to these outrageous images?
My unmediated reactions were listened to and borne with patience, as everyone else in the group thought the image amazing and beautiful. Was I in another world? I went away from the group with the astounding image permanently embedded in my mind. But little did I know that something else had been triggered apart from the collective connection of disgust.
During the following week I had many experiences where I discovered I had vagina eyes. Everywhere I went, I viewed with a vagina lens: people, visions and experiences that reminded me of the photo of the vagina. The first encounter was a discussion about feminism. I am a woman of 58 years, and my disappointment at feminism and it ‘not working’ became a huge discussion with friends at a café over a glass of wine and nibbles. I expressed my belief that feminism had not worked, and the other women were outraged. It was explained to me that patriarchy was so embedded in our psyches that feminism kept getting pushed down and bastardised into other forms of women’s freedom, like donning the pants, discarding bras, and hating men. I was naïve, and my friends talked me through my misled patriarchal eyes to see the point of feminism: To gain equal rights as human beings; to not be second rate citizens in the eyes of a society that placed the qualities of the masculine as first and best; that the qualities of the feminine, nurture, care, compassion, and the inner qualities of being human, matter just as equally.
The following day whilst on a tram I spied a woman whose appearance struck me as similar to the woman who brought in the photo of the vagina images. I could not stop staring at her and wondered about her vagina, what it looked like and how she would react if she knew I was fantasizing about the appearance of her vagina. It was a most interesting journey on that tram, and I did not find myself repulsed by my musings. I wondered how she would react to seeing a photo of vaginas. Would she have the same reaction of disgust and repulsion like I first did? I found myself interested and excited by my wonderings of her and her vagina, and I noticed a lack of disgust.
That same night whilst watching a British programme called “New Tricks”, the male detective in the show was interviewing a woman who happened to have an engraved wooden statue of her own vagina on her desk. Of course the detective noticed it and commented, something like: “Is that what I think it is?” To which she replied: “It’s a portrait of my vagina.” He was astounded and had to know: “It’s your vagina?” He was horrified; she was amused. There it was again, my response from the masculine of repulsion. My initial feelings of repulsion began to change to celebration and curiosity at images of vaginas.
The next night I watched a movie called “Chocolat” with Juliette Binoche as the main character, Viarne, who brings the delights of chocolate cuisine into a Christian French town. Watching the movie with ever increasing vagina eyes, I noticed the beliefs of the Christian patriarchy, via the Mayor, a man of God of the small town, being aimed at Viarne the lead actress. These were some of the accusations aimed at her:
That she was some kind of radical; an atheist; shameless; brazen; the enemy; running a brothel; indecent; a bad influence; forbidden; radical humanoid; you won’t last long here; don’t misbehave; you must serve patriarchy or you are crazy; immoral; born guilty, a sinner when your mother conceives you; must resist those that lead us into temptation; satan the maker of sweet things; we must renounce shallow worldly temptations of our mortal flesh etc. . . All because she opened a chocolate store in a little Christian town somewhere in the middle of France. Huh?
The transition from somewhere on the outside of feminism to deeper immersion into my own true feminine nature was tweaked.
In the past I donned priestess garb; prayed wholly and completely to the Goddess; used softer, gentler loving words; developed compassion for myself and others, and attempted goddess ritual expression. None has come close to the experience of viewing a photo of a real vagina on one sheet of paper displayed several times over.
My eyes were developing with a new and excited strength. Vagina strength. I was beginning to see and experience my deep feminine core. I was developing Vagina Eyes.
-Judy Williams, She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism and Spirituality?