Date of Award
Master of Industrial Design
How does a gendered gaze determine what we feel shame about?
In patriarchal society, the male gaze is normal. Within its sights, the vulva, the external female sexual and reproductive organs, is viewed negatively — censored and ignored, or labeled with euphemisms and slurs across cultures. The modern western medical canon upholds and reinforces this view of the vulva, through a combination of disinterest and omission. This cultural aversion leads to a personal aversion. For people with vulvas this manifests in a lack of information about their own bodies which leads to shame, pain and even death.
Vulva Gazing is an invitation to become curious, empowered and shame-free. This work explores how sex-ed contributes to gendering, how shame is experienced in relation to the body through teenage years and well into adulthood, and the role art and design can play in challenging shame and promoting pleasure. The lens of pleasure can disrupt conventional social relations that stigmatizes female agency. I have found that the act of gazing at the vulva is critical to radically normalizing the gendered female body.
I ask you to imagine, what might happen if every person could live in their body without shame?
Jamal Zaidi, Aaliya, "Vulva gazing: power and the gendered body" (2022). Masters Theses. 919.
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