Marching for your muffs!

31 12 2011

Here on the Vlog we provide commentary on cunt-related news, covering a broad range of sex- and health-related topics. This week we discuss miffed Brits who marched to protest cosmetic surgery on our muffs. 

On Saturday Dec. 17, London had its first Muff March in response to the rising demand for “designer vagina” cosmetic surgeries in the UK. Organized by the women’s rights group, UK Feminista, marchers toted signs that read, “keep your mitts off our muffs” and “there’s nothing finer than my vagina!” More than 100 demonstrators marched on Harley Street, well known for its cosmetic surgeon offices, and the event ended with a “muff dance” where ladies thrust and shimmied sporting shaggy, furry and even rainbow coloured pubic wigs, also known as merkins, between their legs. Watch a short clip of the glorious fuzzy snatch romp below.

According to UK Feminista director, Kat Banyard, the purpose of the Muff March was not only to speak out against the rise of vaginal surgeries like labiaplasties (which decrease the size of the labia by cutting away part of it) and the cosmetic surgeons who profit from them, but to expose a growing pornographic beauty standard that pressures women to shave, tighten and trim their pussies.

“Women’s beauty regimes increasingly encompass ‘ideals’ peddled by the pornography industry, like the porn norm of women removing all their pubic hair, the industry preferring its performers to look more like pre-pubescent girls,” says Banyard. “Now pornography is exposing women to the toxic myth that there is one ‘right’ way for their labia to look. It’s time to fight back.”

Gaga knows how to shake a merkin.

The Muff March has cited statistics to prove these growing trends. For instance, in 2010 the Harley Medical Group received over 5,000 cosmetic gynecology inquiries. Overall, 65 percent of the queries were for labial reduction, while the rest addressed vaginal tightening and reshaping.

Popular cosmetic procedures include vaginal rejuvenation, which tightens the vagina, and revirgination, also known as hymenoplasty, a surgical procedure which reattaches the hymen and is often promoted as allowing women to recapture that magical cherry-popping experience. Another surgery, where the labia minora are completely amputated to create a “smooth” appearance is known in the cosmetic field as “the Barbie.” That concept, paired with the name, makes me shudder. And although I feel that women should have the right to decide what they do with their bodies, they should also be aware that there are inherent risks involved. For example, according to research conducted by the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, procedures like a labiaplasty can potentially damage nerve endings leading to “impaired sexual function”. So in the end, are having perfectly symmetrical, teeny tiny labia worth the effort and the risk?

Now your pussy can be as smooth and non-existent as a Barbie's.

Another march protesting the “designer vagina” trend was held in Kitchener this past November. Led by students from the Sexuality, Marriage and Family program of St. Jerome’s University, one of the University of Waterloo’s colleges, the march was part of the month-long New View Campaign known as “Vulvanomics.” Students marched in front of Kitchener City Hall to challenge the growth of Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery in Canada. A satirical video created by the campaign (featured below) highlights the ways that cosmetic surgeons “privatize those privates”. Cheesy editing aside, it’s a clever, insightful look at an industry that profits on manipulating and shaming women.

But there are those who are voicing concerns about this type of Muff March protesting. For example, The Muffia, a feminist performance artist group who inspired the fake “muffs” donned by Muff marchers in the UK, endorse the protest but raise the questions, “who are we protesting against?” and “what does protesting achieve?”

Personally, I have wondered what effect these types of marches have other than raising awareness about how heavily cultural standards influence women’s attitudes towards their genitals. This alone is an important message to spread, but how do we continue this dialogue and effectively shift attitudes? Popular media everywhere, pornography aside, pressures women to modify their bodies. We’re told to remove fat, wrinkles, freckles, hair, blemishes and the list goes on. But it seems to me that marching to protest muff modification is only the first step and the real shift will come when we focus on empowering women to love the natural shapes of their vaginas, regardless of how a porn star like Jenna Jameson’s looks.

I also believe that the voices of women who have felt it necessary to pursue these types of surgeries should be addressed and included in the muff movement. Excluding the experiences of these women deprives the campaign of diverse opinions and hinders its aim to educate and empower larger numbers. As with any cosmetic surgery, I think an effort needs to be made to understand the motives and realities of women who undergo them, in a sensitive way. For instance, if a woman suffers from deep emotional and psychological pain that inhibits her from engaging in sexual experiences, I wouldn’t judge her for resorting to cosmetic surgery in order to attain a degree of confidence and autonomy. But I would also want to know what personal and cultural factors contributed to that decision. And who are we to shame or patronizingly speak for women who have chosen plastic surgery based on their own very valid experiences.

I’m all for women marching and waving their muffs proudly for the world to see, and encouraging others to join in, but I think that a compassionate and understanding effort should be made to include and educate women who have undergone cosmetic surgery, or are considering it, and include their experiences in this dialogue. Preaching to the converted only gets you so far, after all. We should be striving to incorporate everyone’s voices, and marvelous muffs. Only then can we send a truly inclusive message of V acceptance.

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