The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Australian Family Association: Female Genitals (Cunts) “Offensive”, “Degrading” To Women

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 1, 2009

Yes, you did read that headline correctly.

Readers interested in the art world, living in Adelaide or attending Adelaide Fringe (or who RSVP’d to the Facebook event!) will likely be aware of Greg Taylor’s new exhibition, CUNTS… and other conversations, which features 140 life-sized sculpted portraits of, well, cunts.

(For the record, I subscribe to the excellent Betty Dodson’s use of the term “cunt” rather than “vagina”, because as she notes – even if it is geared towards sexual identity rather than just identity – “technically speaking, the vagina is the birth canal, so using this term leaves out the other parts of a woman’s sex organ”).

Far from the sensationalist angle you would be forgiven for expecting if you read the tabloid news (and we’ll get to that in a minute), the exhibition serves a noble and much needed purpose: to remind people – and, yes, women – that all cunts are different, and all of them are beautiful. From the press release:

“It is a challenging show to some, but it is a work of celebration and empowerment to others. It’s the kind of show that makes a stimulating backdrop for women’s issues to be discussed, which I encourage,” he says.

CUNTS previewed in Melbourne in 2008 and attracted 2000 visitors over ten days including school groups, mothers with their daughters and medical students sent by their university lecturer.

The models for CUNTS range in age from 18 to 78 and are from various religious backgrounds; Christians of many denominations, including Catholic, Protestant, Salvation Army as well as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Witches and Atheists. The women come from all walks of life; teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, writers, actors, musicians, artists, life models, students, architects and theologians. The models are heterosexual, bisexual, lesbians. Some are virgins. All of them want one thing; for young women to be free of growing up with fear, ignorance and loathing of their bodies and sexuality. [my emphasis - Clem]

Xanya Mamunya is a harpist whose cunt features among the works. She says of the modelling process, “It was empowering because I am from a generation that never even looked down there. I wasn’t even told about the menstrual cycle until I thought I was bleeding to death. Modelling for the exhibition made me feel that I was part of something that I think is very important – for everyone.”

It’s such a stand-up inspiration for an art show that, naturally, the Australian Family Association and their associated cronies had to come and spoil the show. And boy, did they ever, stepping beyond their usual sex/body-phobia into a whole new realm: yes, women’s genitals are offensive and degrading… to women!

The Australian Family Association also attacked Mr Taylor’s use of the word and images as degrading to women and totally inappropriate for public display. Spokeswoman Gabrielle Walsh said there was absolutely no excuse for the public display of the sculptures or the “C” word.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to force these images and words upon us in public for all to view, including children,” she said. “It’s an abuse of public space and women, in particular, would find them deeply offensive.”

One wonders if Ms Walsh feels personally “offended” or “degraded” by the very thing lurking inside her pants. Fellow blogger Audrey Apple launched the exhibition (with her work hat on); we were discussing the infuriating uproar this morning via email and she had this to say:

Personally, I feel degraded by the notion that the Australian Family Association, with their regressive anti female, anti homosexual and anti sexuality agenda, feels that they can speak for ME. In fact, it’s my experience so far that women especially have responded positively to the exhibition. If the AFA weren’t so determined to believe that bodies are disgusting – and women’s bodies especially – then they might actually learn something. In a world where more and more women are having cosmetic surgery to make their vaginas and labia look ‘presentable’, it’s the height of obscenity to declare an exhibition celebrating vaginal diversity ‘vulgar’ and ‘offensive’.

Throughout the gnashing of teeth by AFA (and Australia Post, and – yes – “State secretary of the Communications Electrical Electronic Energy Information Postal Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia, Graham Lorrain”), it’s hard to work out what has sent them into more of a lather: the use of the word “cunt”, or the images of women’s genitals?

On the former topic, yes, it’s true that the “worst” words you can throw at a person have been narrowed down to two that are distinctly female: “cunt”, and “motherfucker”. But it’s worth reclaiming “cunt” (as many people, feminist and otherwise, are aiming to do); it’s a fine, old word with a rich etymological history (hell, it was good enough for Shakespeare!). If we can take back “bitch” and other epithets, why not “cunt”? Why not take it as a compliment? A cursory Google search on the topic will reveal an extensive library of pro-cunt blogging, journalism and web-ringing.

Indeed, it is easier to believe (though harder to accept) that it’s the former – images of cunts – that is the main issue at hand. And why wouldn’t it be? Women’s magazines aren’t allowed to print images of women’s genitals (i.e. for sexual education) unless they are the homogenised line drawings of tampon leaflets (I recall Mia Freedman, when she was Editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, even running an editorial push for readers to “write to their local member of Parliament” – so to speak – in an effort to get rid of these archaic censorship laws). Porn magazines airbrush women’s labia until they look like neat little purses. Women of all walks of life are talked into plastic surgery in order to achieve “designer vaginas“.

But calling women’s genitals “deeply offensive”? It seems the depths of society’s fucked-up-ness are yet to be plumbed.

22 Responses to “Australian Family Association: Female Genitals (Cunts) “Offensive”, “Degrading” To Women”

  1. lauren said

    hear, hear!

  2. audrey said

    Clem, as I stated in my launch speech, the word ‘cunt’ is just accepted as being ‘the most offensive thing you could possible say’ (I’ve yet to be informed on who decided this, much as I’ve yet to be informed on when the vote was held that saw society deem Video Hits and posters of Grid Girls at the Clipsal ‘acceptable’ and therefore beyond reproach, while this show is so clearly ‘offensive’ that it cannot possibly be defended in a Sunday ‘family’ newspaper)- but it’s only offensive when women are around to hear it. This integral part of our anatomy can be thrown around by men as irreverant and/or forceful insults to each other, yet when women are denied the use of it and its basic definition because very powerful lobby groups intent on forcing their archaic morality upon the nation have decided FOR US that it’s degrading and offensive.

    I mean. FUCK.

  3. audrey said

    Sorry, i just reread that and it’s a little bit grammatically illegible. That’s what happens when fucking cunts steal your mojo.

  4. Best thing to have read after a lengthy night out. Especially reading it out aloud to a room full of friends who a) use the word Cunt as a compliment, and b) are mainly women.

    Love these cunts.

  5. Helen said

    Thanks for this article. And ‘thanks’ for your warning, Australian Family Association, because of course the year is 1835, and I need you to protect me from …MYSELF. What the?
    BTW. It’s interesting what’s considered “normal” for viewing in our world. Take for example the range of ultra-violent gashes currently screened at ‘Australian families’, on TV and in cinemas, as part of the anti-drink and drive commercials. Huge gaping wounds, such as the female bike rider with her leg torn off.
    Cunts aren’t wounds, or violence, they’re safe. They’re sources of wonder. I love mine.

  6. Casey said

    Thank-you. An intriguing, well-formed peice of writing with a lot of depth & power. Very cunt-like.

  7. Penelope said

    This is a really moving exhibition, particularly for me – a friend of mine modelled for one of the pieces, and she has since died. She would have been so proud of these works.

    I encourage people to go and see this amazing exhibition, even members of the AFA. How anyone could find cunts threatening or degrading just astounds me, and it makes me wonder if these people have every really looked at and admired any.

    Then again, the AFA doesn’t seem to see women as much more than the Meadowlea Mum, which is pretty damn threatening and degrading to me.

  8. Ooh Lala said

    Thanks for spreading the word about the word.
    It’s heartening to read the supportive comments and the informative article.
    I am handling the publicity for the exhibtion and it’s been quite draining to have all my depressingly cynical views about politics, sexism and media cemented even further.
    The artist, Greg Taylor, will appreciate your support.

  9. [...] Clem Bastow writes of the alarming response to ‘Cunts and Other Conversations’ in The Dawn Chorus by The Australian Family Association who believe that not only the word ‘cunt’ but the [...]

  10. mscate said

    I think it’s just ridiculous! So many women (and men it would seem)are scared of vaginas.Many women have never seen what their vagina looks like or that of any other woman, except for digitally edited, airbrushed porn pictures.An exhibition like this dispels the myth that vaginas are all hairfree and ‘neat and tidy’and to be tucked away between closed legs to everyone except your partner and gynaecologist.

    Further, what’s so wrong about the term ‘cunt’? Surely it’s preferrably to adult women using euphenisms like ‘down there’,’front bottom’and ‘vagigi’. Or the porn favourite of men, ‘pussy’. Cunt is friendly, like cock. It moves the vagina outside of a medical definition and encompasses the labias and clitoris rather than simply the penetrative sphere.

    I for one, am proud and empowered by my cunt.

  11. Lorenzo said

    Culture is really weird.
    I’m Italian, living in Australia (Adelaide) since 2007.

    In Italy all the good things are female and all the bad things are male. we don’t have the “it” neutral so everything (objects, plants or animals) are female or male.

    cunt in Italian would be “figa” and dick “cazzo”. If you say to a girl that she is a “figa” it’s a kind rude way to make a compliment, it means she is really beautiful.
    if u say to somebody (anybody) that he or she is a “cazzone” (big dick) it means that he or she is stupid and is messing around.

    I really believe that you can make your own culture and we can educate our-self to do so. I give you a little example: since we don’t have the neutral person in our language whatever has an uncertain identity it will be male.

    Generally you identify the “sex” of a word right at the and of it, so generally you will have -o (singular male) -a (singular female) -i (plural male) -e (plural female). Some minor community in Italy decided to change the way to write putting a star “*” instead of any of the gender identifier (kind of it solution) and when they speak mentioning both “sex” version of a word when you need to do so. It’s hard, some time slow, but it changes the point of you.

    I really think is about time for us in Italy to have a neutral person and it’s time to change the mechanism of “pussy control” that is spread all around the world.

    Sorry for the long comment and call me cunt whenever you want: I’m Italian and I’ll be pleased.

  12. Meadowlea Mum… gold. Thanks Penelope.

    I agree, the only thing offensive here is the AFA having the gall to think they can speak for me.

  13. Jaa said

    Word! Bravo cunts!

  14. Mez said

    The only time the word CUNT is ‘misused’ as a derogatory statement is in a primary school playground or with people who have a similar IQ, whereby you find, ‘dick’ as well.

    Lets embrace the word ‘cunt’ as its literal meaning, as their image is beautiful and unique – You won’t find two exactly the same! It’s time to grow up AFA and move with the times. Perhaps they have their cunts in a knot due to the artist being male? Who is being discrimitive now?

    Be proud of your cunts, embrace other cunts and spread the love for all future cunts. Cunts for life mate!

  15. Shaz said

    On ya Mez! We need to get cunt back in terms of it’s original intent; not used as an abusive and offensive word that is usually preceded by fucking.
    Where would society be without cunts – they are a vital part of the reproductive system and many of us see the world for the first time coming out of a cunt.

  16. tina sparkle said

    I wish I could find the emma tom column she wrote years ago about ‘cunt’ being one of her favourite words, and expressing her outrage at how dare people outlaw a word that’s named after one of her favourite bits.

    thankyou thankyou thankyou TDC for letting me freely type ‘cunt’ knowing that it won’t be censored by asterisks or other substitute punctuation!

  17. Back again. Mez, I love the word cunt and think it should be embraced as its literal meaning and removed from the Dungeon of Disgust.

    BUT – and I’d be interested to hear others opinions on this – I actually also really don’t mind using cunt as an expression of frustration or anger or criticism. I don’t think when I call someone a cunt in anger that I’m hating on vaginas because I would also use cunt just to describe it in its natural state. But cunts CAN be frustrating, annoying, angry, mean, disagreeable and tempermental. If I can call someone a dick or a fuckwit, why can’t I also call them a cunt? It doesn’t mean I love cunts any less, just as calling someone a dick means I’m a manhating boner killer.

    I don’t know, I just think it can really apply to both things. Moving it into this goddess territory or worship is really just the flipside of it being ‘the most offensive thing you can say EVA’. It’s just a cunt.

  18. caitlinate said

    Audrey: Yessssssssssss!

  19. [...] Australian Family Association: Female Genitals (Cunts) “Offensive”, “Degrading” To Women [...]

  20. [...] plastered around town. Gabrielle Walsh from the Australian Family Association said Taylor ‘shouldn’t be allowed to force these images and words upon us in public for all to view, includ…‘ and police investigated. Whether it was the images or the use of the word ‘cunt’ [...]

  21. Arthur said

    The Australian Family Association shouldn’t be able to affect what I am able to view. Cunts are beautiful and without them we wouldn’t be here.

    It is time to remove the stigma associated with the word.

  22. Loving the Cock of Christ said

    I had some fuck hole christians from the ministry of propoganda, come to my front door, spewing their brainwashing bullshit.

    I said, “Hasn’t it ever occured to you that your imaginary friend in low earth orbit may not actually exist?

    She goes on and on and on…..

    So I say, “Look take your crap and fuck off.”

    So she carries on with “Oh you must not talk like that around children” – and she reaches down and actually holds her hands over her 5 year olds ears….”

    Yes – the child person was actually haemorraging blood from the ears, after hearing the word “fuck”…..

    god only knows how mumsy (and her mystical friends) will hand the issue of puberty, boys, fucking and hard cocks or wet cunts, when the time comes.

    Perhaps she could gas the child person, and stick her in a tank of formaldehyde to avoid the issue all together.

    It’s perfectly all right tho, Jesus told her too.

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