Sydney University’s student newspaper, Honi Soit, published a cover featuring images of the vulvae of 18 students. The magazine says they wanted to challenge censorship and stigmatisation of women’s bodies by showing vaginas in a non-sexual way. You know, since more than fifty percent of the population has one, maybe we shouldn't be so weirded out by seeing them?
However, just before the issue went to print, the university's Student Representative Council (SRC) lawyers expressed concerns about its vagina-having-ness and so the editors placed black bars over the labia and clitorises (perhaps so people could imagine that there were Pez dispensers and dancing M&M's behind the bars? Because ewwww labia and clitorises!). When the copies arrived earlier today, the black bars were not fully opaque and some of the vulvae could be made out. HORRORS. In response, the SRC seized all 4,000 copies and "plans to guillotine the covers this afternoon."
"The idea that the vagina, a body part that half the population, can still be considered offensive or indecent is the very idea our paper was challenging,” the issue’s editor-in-chief, Hannah Ryan, said. “The cover was meant to be an empowering message to women that they don’t need to be ashamed of their bodies. This response, and the fact that it is possibly criminal, is therefore incredibly disappointing.”
Honi Soit published a post on its Facebook page further explaining the motivations behind the idea:
We are tired of society giving us a myriad of things to feel about our own bodies. We are tired of having to attach anxiety to our vaginas. We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (see: porn) or stigmatised (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.
The vaginas on the cover are not sexual. We are not always sexual. The vagina should and can be depicted in a non-sexual way – it’s just another body part. “Look at your hand, then look at your vagina,” said one participant in the project. “Can we really be so naïve to believe our vaginas the dirtiest, sexiest parts of our body?”
We want to feel normal; we don’t want to feel fearful when we have a first sexual counter with a partner who may judge us because of our vaginas.
Here they are, flaps and all. Don’t you dare tell me my body offends you.
Excellent points, and a perfect act in the tradition of student-run magazines everywhere. If they can't push the boundaries, who can? And um, can I get a subscription sent to me in Los Angeles?
The magazine now plan to release the issue, but with an entirely blank cover instead.