I am soft, I am strong, I Am a Vulva

I am soft, I am strong, I Am a Vulva
Photo By Mariza Kapsabeli

In a world where femininity is either marginalized or sexualized, exhibitions, films and stimuli that speak and express it should be at the centre of our attention. Women Do Business attended the opening of the exhibition I am a Vulva, by Efis Emmanouilidis in collaboration with her art collective Planet Sisterhood at KATAIS Athens. An exhibition of handmade ceramic vulvas, video projections and installations that highlight contemporary femininities in Greece.

Photo By Mariza Kapsabeli

How many times have you seen the female vulva depicted and how many times the male genital organ?

Let’s go back a bit, to our school days, when some of our classmates used to draw it all over the notebooks. On a walk looking at the drawings on the walls. In phrases symbolizing the male molecule with strength and courage.

Now ask yourself how many times have you seen this happen with female organs? These are all stimuli from the young age. It’s a result of the patriarchal structure. This exhibition has come to change that.

The exhibition I Am a Vulva presents ceramic vulvas different from each other. Some that look like flowers others like shells and generally with different natural elements, highlighting the beauty of femininity. Essentially, the aim is to highlight femininity as a natural, integral part of our world. Why? Because femininity exists in all of us, beyond gender and sexual orientation. It is a force to be recognized and celebrated.

I am a vulva
Photo By Aphrodite Goulakou
I Am A Vulva a project by Effie Emmanouilidi
Photo By Mariza Kapsabeli

A few words about the artist of the exhibition I Am a Vulva

Efi Emmanouilidi is an Artist and Art Director living and working in Athens. Femininity, ecofeminism and gender are dominant themes in her visual art practice.Her work focuses mainly on the expression and manifestation of femininity. She uses media such as sculpture, video, analogue photography and text. She holds a Master’s Degree in Visual Communication from the University of Derby / Vakalo Art & Design College and was recently awarded at Young Lions Competition Greece.

A few words about Planet Sisterhood

Planet Sisterhood is an art collective founded by Efi Emmanouilidis, Ismeni Iglesi, Mariza Kapsampeli and Christina Dimitra in 2022. It is open to any femininity involved in the arts, aiming to support freedom of expression through creativity. Especially in Greece, the element of religion restricts the emergence of femininity. Hypocrisy is deeply rooted in notions of the autonomy of female sexuality, which is strongly criticized when expressed. Even when the expression of femininity is theoretically supported, it is not infrequently done superficially.

But what is femininity?

I am soft, I am strong, I Am a Vulva
Photo By Aphrodite Goulakou

Even in trying to define it, we find that prejudices run through the term. Prejudices that associate femininity with physical appearance, certain behavioural traits and defined roles and attributes.

In reality, however, we cannot limit our definition of femininity. We cannot place it in a specific context. It is not a single thing. It is many things. It encompasses many qualities, expressions, manifestations and behaviours. It is perceived differently by each entity and varies from person to person. It is a multifaceted concept that can be embraced by anyone.

What is femininity based on the stereotypes that have been attached to it?

Traditionally it has been associated with certain stereotypes. Entrenched perceptions that have shaped societal expectations. Preconceptions that impose certain characteristics and a narrow view of what it is and how to be feminine.

To begin with, there are more than a few times when expression is not allowed or restricted. Regardless of location, time and culture, femininity experiences restrictions and repressions. We tend to diminish it, to hide it, considering it something bad and forbidding. At the same time, when we are allowed to externalize it, we are encouraged to do so in a certain way and with certain characteristics.

Femininity and appearance

One of the most enduring stereotypes about femininity concerns appearance. Femininity is often associated with wearing dresses and skirts, using makeup, and having long, combed hair. There is a strong emphasis on beauty and elegance, suggesting that women should always strive to look attractive and well-groomed.

Stereotypically, feminine behavior is characterized by care, kindness and empathy. Femininities should be gentle, kind, and resilient; traditional conceptions of femininity often include interests in domestic activities such as cooking, sewing, and housekeeping. In addition, fashion, beauty and personal care are seen as essential elements.

This is all a result of patriarchy and the exhibition “I Am a Vulva” comes to deconstruct these perceptions. The aim is to highlight the diversity and complexity of femininity, rejecting the stereotypes and restrictive perceptions imposed by patriarchal society. Through art and expression, the exhibition invites the public to reconsider and revise their preconceptions about femininity and women’s identity.

έκθεση i am a vulva
Photo By Mariza Kapsabeli

It is important to break down the stereotypical image and social construction of femininity. The exhibition I Am a Vulva acts as a voice for the oppression of femininity. As an attempt to establish its importance and the different ways it manifests itself.

In the exhibition, the female vulva is depicted in diverse patterns and colors. Femininity is diverse and colorful. It may be no color at all. It can be strong, fearless and tough. It can be delicate, soft and calm. It can be all of these and none of these. What is it not? It is not everything that society and its patriarchal standards define and command us to be.

Article writer: Katerina Faili

Translated by: Nectaria Lambropoulou

Article Editor: Sofia Dialiatsi

Photos By: Mariza Kapsabeli & Aphrodite Goulakou

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