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Dont miss the Festival of the Vagina

In celebration of author Phillip Werner's new book 101 Vaginas, Melbourne will play host to a day long festival dedicated to the muff...


This Friday 22 March 2013, sees the inaugural Festival of the Vagina in combination with the 101 Vagina Book Launch and Exhibition being held in one of Melbourne's premier alternative venues, 1000 Pound Bend. 

Toni Childs, who wrote the foreword for the book, and is flying down from the Gold Coast to attend the launch says: “If you are living on planet earth it is because of the vagina”. 

And Banksy is often credited with saying “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. This is exactly what is happening. 

The one day festival is a combined event with the 101 Vagina book launch and exhibition. Rather than simply cut a ribbon and make a boring speech, the organiser and author, Philip Werner, decided to turn the launch event into a larger celebration of vaginas, positive body image and sexuality generally. The exhibition runs all day with festival activities kicking off from 4pm. 

The event brings together a diverse range of Melbourne and interstate artists, educators, musicians and even politicians. They are all uniting to smash the taboo around our genitalia through art, poetry, movement, craft, and music.  

According to Werner, 101 Vagina and the Festival of the Vagina are about "breaking down the taboos and body image shame that prevent so many women from feeling comfortable with their bodies. Various media are awash with messages that women are not fine the way they are, but instead, need to buy this product or have that operation, in order to become 'normal'."

"It's rubbish. One outrageous example is that while most women's labia minora protrude from their labia majora, Australian censorship law prevents such normal vaginas from being shown in soft-core, unclassified porn. They have to be airbrushed away. Our law! And cosmetic surgeons are offering to do physically what Photoshop does virtually. 

All this needs to change and there are many movements afoot to counter these ignorant censorship decisions and commercially exploitative interests. The Large Labia Project tumblr blog, another Australian project, recently gained widespread international media attention for showing the world a real picture of how normal women look. There are vagina crafternoons, where crafty types get together to sew, bake, knit, or paint genitalia. Many educational workshops, events and sex therapists are all working to correct the distorted messages. 

There is also increasing debate about why we ban female genital mutilation, while plastic surgeons are allowed to charge tens of thousands for labiaplasty, as if that is not female genital mutilation. Not to mention male genital mutilation, circumcision. 

In this milieu, 101 Vagina and the Festival of the Vagina are confronting, delighting, uniting and dividing people in equal measure. Some feminists are decrying another “man exploiting women”, while others are lauding the creation of more body acceptance and dialogue. Some sex educators have criticised the book for showing only black and white “closed leg' photos rather than up close colour images, while others are celebrating the depiction of all shapes and sizes and the sharing of powerful stories. Some take delight in the celebration, others feel confronted. The vagina draws powerful responses from many quarters. 

Attendees will find themselves surrounded by the 101 photos taken for the 101 Vagina book over the course of two years, along with the 101 stories, messages written by the women from or about their vaginas to the world. Other artists work will also be on display, including works from the day's crafternoon activities. The evening will then see a variety of workshops, speakers, performers and musicians contribute their take on what vagina love means to them and why it's important. 

Philip Werner is a Melbourne based photographer and peace activist. 

101 Vagina Book Launch and Exhibition and Festival of the Vagina 
Date: Friday 22 March 2013 
Venue: 1000 Pound Bend - 361 Lt Lonsdale St Melbourne 
Exhibition: 10am – 10pm 
Festival: 4pm – 10pm 
Official book launch: 7pm 
Festival of the Vagina: (See event timetable here) http://festivalofthevagina.com 

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