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Published: March 5, 2013 6:42 pm to Opinion Column

“The Vaginas Are Coming”: Students for Life vs. giant crotch photos

vagina

Hey, Vagina People! First: putting the words “Kick Off” on top of a uterus doesn’t really say, “Join us, ladies.” Second: your parents are paying good money for you to go to college. You don’t know how to spell “demonstration,” but you do know how to justify porn with big words… Come to think of it, I think you’ll do just fine in the real world.

You can already tell by the title of this blog post that things are about to get ridiculous.

Let me just start off with the basics: Students for Life of America sponsored a display of graphic images by the Genocide Awareness Project on the University of Cincinnati campus. Supposedly in response to this, the UC Feminists and the UC (*deep breath*) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Alliance (*exhale*) will be hosting a panel led by (guess who!) Planned Parenthood, and will host an “art display” featuring 12 billboard-sized images of vaginas.

You can reread that if you need to.

While you do, I’ll be thinking about how inviting Planned Parenthood to lead your sex panel is like allowing KFC to lead your obesity panel. When did we get the idea that they’re here to educate us? As Kristan Mercer Hawkins of SFLA said, “Planned Parenthood isn’t an educational group; it’s an industry. It sells contraception, abortions, and STD treatment[.]”

When I heard about all this, the first thing I imagined – because my brain is weird – was the phone calls to the vagina models:

“Hey, Kat? It’s Lauren. What are you doing later?”

“I have cardio yoga-lates, why?”

“Are you free after? Students for Life just showed these giant aborted fetus posters -”

“Ugh!”

“And we want to counter-protest by showing pictures of vaginas. So, Kat, can we take pictures of your vagina and show a billboard-sized print of it on campus?”

“Well, Lauren, I’m a queer feminist. I have serious problems with the objectification of women, the compartmentalization of women’s bodies and minds, and the devolution of women into mere reproductive organs. So yes!”

Let me just state this right out of the gate: I am one of those probably rare pro-lifers who does not agree with the wholesale public display of graphic images. I am not going into why because that’s not what this post is about. This about the enormous difference between what UC Students for Life and Genocide Awareness Project showed, and what the UC Feminists and LGBTQA are doing.

(Please note: I’m going to get really wordy and bored typing all that over and over, so from now on they’re the Pro-Lifers and the Vagina People. Okay? Okay.)

The Vagina People said this:

Their billboard sized photographs equated mutilated fetuses with genocide victims in an effort to shame women, comparing reproductive choice to holocaust.

What the Pro-Lifers’ photographs showed was the product of the most common medical procedure in America. They did it because they’re concerned that people don’t know what the “reproductive choice” they’re supporting looks like. They’re providing information. Whether they’re doing it in the right way is immaterial to this debate.

According to the Vagina People, their big vagina photos will be much more appropriate and important:

Our demonstration serves to call attention to the vagina as a site of conflict in medical, legislative, domestic, and representational arenas. Its purpose is to incite conversation about the objectification, exploitation, and discrimination of women’s bodies in advertising, health care, reproductive rights, and queer identities.

Okay.

First of all. We know what vaginas look like. This is not information. This is not educational. It is an adolescent action intended to shock the Christians, delight the frat boys, and make everybody gasp about how brave and revolutionary the Vagina People are.

It doesn’t matter how many Gender Studies and Queer Theory thesis paragraphs you throw into the mix. You’re still just showing big crotch pictures.

This is one of those situations that makes me feel like I need to be beamed up. Breakin’ it down:

Graphic images of aborted fetuses to educate people about the reality of abortion: shames women.

Graphic images of vaginas to somehow show that objectification and exploitation are bad: empowers women.

Questions (licenses from Dreamstime)

Do you know what I think? I think the Vagina People are immature children who don’t do a lot of critical thinking. You know why I think that? Because I was a Vagina Person. I didn’t actually show vagina pictures anywhere, but I would have thought it was pretty awesome when I was about 23. And I would have made up the same warmed-over crap to justify it.

But the real reason why I would have thought it was awesome is that it’s incendiary and pornographic. And this is pornography. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t be so excited about it.

You can argue that the graphic abortion images are also shocking, and that they qualify as pornographic. But there is an important difference of intent. The vagina pictures are there to titillate, to arouse and inflame. The Vagina People deny that, but that’s because they’re lying. They’re exhibitionists. They want attention and praise. And they will get it. Mark my words.

The Pro-Lifers got some negative attention and virtually no praise. They didn’t make anyone horny, but they made the vast majority of viewers upset and sad and angry. Which was their goal. So tell me again this is the same thing.

Of course Planned Parenthood is involved. They want to rid young women of their natural modesty. They want every 19-year-old girl in America to see her vagina as a plaything and/or an object suitable for public display. They want her purse stuffed with raspberry flavored condoms that don’t work very well.

Moreover, they want every male on campus looking at vagina pictures all day, so a few weeks later, at their clinic less than a mile away, they’ll have some new customers.

Do the Pro-Lifers have a right to show their graphic images on campus? Yes. Do the Vagina People have a right to show their vagina pictures? Apparently, yes. Honestly, if I happened to be on campus with my young son or daughter, I would not want them looking at either one.

But whatever your feelings on graphic images, please remember: these Pro-Lifers are acting in earnest. They’re showing their photos in the hope that someone might see them, learn the truth, and avoid the pain and death of abortion.

The Vagina People are showing their photos because they can. Because it’s fun. They’re not trying to save lives. They’re trying to have a laugh, and all the blowhard collegiate posturing is just that: posturing.

I know this because I was just like them. One day when this is years behind them, they’ll finally start admitting it to themselves and each other. They’ll sit around and laugh about that time they snowed the administration into letting them show giant pictures of vulvas on campus.

That’s the difference here. Don’t be fooled.

About Kristen Hatten

Kristen is a writer and comedian who makes people mad on the Internet. She is Vice President of New Wave Feminists and enjoys taxidermy, yachting, and 19th century French poetry. Stalk her relentlessly for fun and profit.
View all posts by Kristen Hatten

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7011573 Beth Lott

    I’m going to swim against the tide here (I think I’ve already gotten about three panicky emails about how I have to fund opposition efforts to this RITE NAO!!!) and say that I don’t think pro-lifers need to resist this display. And not just because free speech cuts both ways.

    As you pointed out, GAP is a serious display that makes a serious point. It does this not just with images, but with volunteers who engage the onlookers, with literature, with commentary on the displays, and with a view towards making people think about human rights and human life and the value of those two things.

    And The Vagina People (who I’m going to call TVP) are countering this with porn.

    Honestly, TVP are basically undermining themselves on this one. And you should never interrupt your opponent when they are making an idiot out of themselves. Nobody takes Code Pink seriously when they are dressed up as giant vaginas. Giant pictures of vaginas make political points about as effectively as giant vagina costumes.

    I do agree that UCSFL should be have a response to this display, maybe in the form of flyers or some other kind of hand-outs. But I don’t see a need to try and stop it. TVP are responding frivolously to something the vast majority of people take *very* seriously. They’ll only harm themselves and I see no reason to try and stop them from doing that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/MarlaKristen Kristen Walker

      I can’t say I don’t agree with you. I don’t include any kind of call to action in this blog. I don’t oppose action, necessarily, but I think it’s even more important to point out (and ridicule) TVP’s motives.

    • Basset_Hound

      From the encounters I’ve had with TVP’s I’ve had online (including the trolls who stagger to LA to clutter up our discussion threads) I’d say they’re cases of arrested development…12 year olds trapped in adult bodies….make that 2 year olds trapped in adult bodies….”but sex is fun and I WAAAANNNNNTTTT it”.

      Personally, I’d rather be a “baby factory” (as I’ve been called) than a walking sex toy, but that’s just me…

      • Detroiter327

        Your off base judgement that every woman who is brave enough to stand behind her choice to have an abortion is a “sex toy” begging to be used is exactly why I troll this website. Thanks for adding more evidence to the case that pro lifers are judgemental slut shamers.

        • Detroitess

          A woman has an abortion because somewhere down the line, a man has failed to love her as she deserves. Whether it be her father, the man who used her sexually, or the doctor who exploited her fears and hopelessness for profit. I have walked it, I know. Only my daughtet survived as Planned Parenthood closed earily the day I went to to them for help. Instead, I ended up at a Crisis Preg Center where I was given a priceless gift: hope. One look at my beautiful daughter, at 9.5 weeks via 3d ultrasound, and I was blown away… I could not believe how amazing she was! I had had no idea of who I was wanting to abort. Even having a teen pregnancy, all my justifications, my fears, my judgements on her and how she would ruin my life….never came true. Instead I learned what true love is, sacrifical love. I suddenly was willing to die for another, if need be. She has been my greatest inspiration and brought so much joy to my life! I have accomplished more goals and dreams in my life, with her by my side, than those little piddly dreams I was once afraid she’d ruin. It is true, love can move mountains! (and I do this all on my own, no help from her father) We women are much stronger than we think!

          • ldwendy

            I don’t think your little piddly dreams are invalid. Who’s to say you can’t try to fulfill them after your daughter grows older?

            No one’s dream is piddly. Everyone has a dream because they feel the end goal is worth striving for.

        • Basset_Hound

          What’s “brave” about being proud of a selfish lifestyle? What’s “brave” about someone bragging that a guy doesn’t even have to take her to Starbuck’s before she’ll have sex with him?

          • Detroiter327

            Again here you go classifying all women as sex crazed nymphos. Considering there is such a huge movement for acceptance, speaking engagements, and book deals for post abortive women I find it interesting all the terrible labels you brandish them with. I was surprised to find you actually were female. The way you write on here I thought you were a crotchety old man!

          • Basset_Hound

            Wow. For a self appointed grammar cop your reading comprehension skills are surprisingly poor! The “vagina people” that Kristen and Beth are referring to are the ones participating in this idiotic “lady parts” demonstration. So no where am I “classifying all women as sex crazed nymphos”. And no, I wasn’t “brandishing all women” with “these labels”

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7011573 Beth Lott

            Not to mention the minor fact that you can’t “brandish” someone with a label. You can “brand” them with it, sure. But “brandish” is an entirely different verb. #grammar

          • Basset_Hound

            Thanks, Beth. I missed that one.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=7011573 Beth Lott

            I minored in English. XD

          • Basset_Hound

            I used to smoke those verbal tests in high school, but actually ended up studying math. Did do a stint as a technical writer before I became a stay at home mom.

        • I Have Something to Say

          Like putting all women who have abortion in the same category is irresponsible and off-base, so is treating all pro-life activists in the same way. Name calling and bullying in any way is childish and suggests an intolerance that everyone should be ashamed of.

          I have friends who have had abortions, and never have I belittled their choices. I have offered support to them, held hands through tears, and never, ever criticized or judged… that is not my place. Though I am Catholic and am pro-life, I am also one who sins… as are we all. “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” people.

    • Ward Ricker

      ” you should never interrupt your opponent when they are making an idiot out of themselves” – well said.

  • Stormii

    I practically died laughing when you called them ‘Vagina People’.

  • http://twitter.com/MarauderTheSN Marauder

    First reaction: Ugh, this is why we get pro-lifers concluding that all GLBT people are pro-choice.

    Second reaction: Dude, the vagina is the inner passage part. I think what they’re intending to show pictures of is vulvas, which is funny in that they don’t even know the name of the body part they’re showing.

    Third reaction: I went to a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” my freshman year of college and it was a big waste of my time. Hilariously enough, towards the end they announced that there was a new monologue added because for years, there hadn’t been anything in TVM about giving birth. The biggest biological reason to even have a vagina in the first place, and it doesn’t occur to them for decades that maybe it should get mentioned in a show all about vaginas.

    Fourth reaction: If they want to counter-protest the abortion pictures, this doesn’t even work as a counter-protest. It’s not like the original pictures were against vaginas and these pictures are for vaginas. I think everyone at UC agrees that vaginas are good and useful, yes?

    Fifth reaction: According to LifeNews, the UC Students For Life referred to the female genitalia pictures as “the depraved use of obscenity for shock value.” Shock value I agree with, but…depraved use of obscenity? A picture of female genitalia isn’t obscene, and I think that statement has huge potential to get interpreted as pro-lifers thinking there’s something essentially obscene about the female body. I know that’s not what they meant, but I think they could have worded it better.

    Sixth reaction: God, I’m so glad I’m done with college forever.

  • Pingback: For Shame | With Open Hands

  • Rachael

    This is a fabulous article. Seriously hilarious, and totally spot-on.

  • jamie garcia

    I’m so glad when I was a VP I was too busy being selfish to have any leaning towards “activism” like this foolishness. College is such an unhealthy bubble

    • MCH

      Hooray for inactivity! LOL

  • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Astraspider

    How big is this thing? I went looking for outside sources and all I found were stories at Jill Stanek, ChristianNewsWire, StudentsForLife and about a million and two plugs for The Vagina Monologues.

    Have fun being indignant at your straw man.

  • Person

    Maybe they should counter with pictures of vagina’s with aborted babies and their parts coming out.

  • MCH

    “You can argue that the graphic abortion images are also shocking, and that they qualify as pornographic.”

    Pornography, by definition, is something that leads to, or is intended to lead to sexual arousal, so unless you have a fetish for dead fetuses, they do NOT qualify as pornography.

    Also, while I may enjoy looking at “lady parts” as much as the next guy, I prefer to be able to see the female they are attached to. Otherwise, it’s just weird.