By Lisa Autz
Japanese artist Rokudenashiko (real name: Megumi Igarashi) sitting in a kayak she made out of a large-scale 3D-printing of her vagina. Image courtesy of LaPatilla.com.
Disclaimer: True to the subject matter, a number of the following links in this article are probably NSFW.
The selfie is always venturing into new grounds of ridiculousness to reinvent the digital self-portrait experience. At times, it seems as if selfie practitioners are in a competition to out-selfie each other at any chance they get.
World leaders are even entering the selfie trend. President Obama set unreasonable standards by tilting heads with Danish and British prime ministers for a pertinent funeral selfie at Nelson Mendela’s memorial in 2013. Pope Francis also cheesed for a selfie with a star-struck teen in South Korea on his palpal tour of the country this month. Yet our culture’s proud form of self-expression is unavoidably evolving at a rapid rate of unwarranted sharing of some of life’s more private places, the art form entering the sacred canal of where life emerges.
Vagina selfies, you guys. That is what we are dealing with now.
Just a month ago, the world got news of “vagifies” from the Japanese artist Rokudenashiko, or “good-for-nothing-girl.” She not only captured a digital file of her crotch, but then placed the shot on a crowd sourcing website to fund a nuanced project: the 3-D printed “pussy boat” kayak.
As funny as many found the crafted vagina boat, floating on it in public placed Megumi Igarashi (the artist’s real name) in custody with charges for breaking Japanese obscenity laws.
“I cannot agree with the police’s decision to label the data as obscene,” Igarashi reportedly said,
according to BBC. “To me, my vagina is like my arms and legs. It’s nothing obscene.”
The vagina selfie may not come as a surprise to many. With so many babies honing their own followers on social media accounts and sonograms going up on Instagram, the vagina selfie was bound to be the next recessive step. Satire pieces have pinned the blame on celebrities like Kim Kardashian for the vagina exposes mainly because the Kardashians are always your best bet when you are looking for someone to blame for just about anything.
But could this new trend have an unprecedented feminist mission?
Potentially, Igarashi’s cheeky selfie could cost her up to two years in jail or a fine for as much as 2.5 million yen, or 24,000 USD, according to a report in The Guardian. But Igarashi denies obscenity charges and says she is determined to “demystify” vaginas in Japan.
Igarashi in the process of building her “pussy boat” kayak. Image courtesy of 3dprintingmachine.biz.
Her robust selfie sparked conversation on Japan’s genital bias, especially since the country has annual penis festivals which are exempt from obscenity laws–even when penis shaped candies get handed out to kids. The arrest successfully revealed a stark hypocrisy in the government’s legislative practice and teeters on the verge of downright sexism.
Igarashi was let out of jail with more than 20,000 signatures petitioning for her release, according to USA Today. She still faces potential charges to be re-arrested however.
Yet her self-expression caught a media frenzy that thoroughly analyzed the pervasiveness of Japan’s gender biases. The double standard for men and women holds a place in many aspects of Japanese culture such as its booming pornography industry or the fact that in Feb 2008, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that erotic penis shots by photographer Robert Mapplethorpe were deemed art instead of indecent.
The Japanese government also only voted in June to ban child pornography after years of its exemption as freedom of expression.
“It’s a freedom of speech issue for men, but not when a women does it,” said Jake Adelstein, a Tokyo journalist, to USA Today.
When the artist was released from custody she urged the public to outgrow the perception that female genitalia are somehow shameful.
A selfie shot, if seen in the context of history, is nothing new. Artists have been experimenting with the control of self-perception for centuries. People crave to be recognized and validated through the use of self-construction. So why can’t vaginas have a place there too?
So next time an opportune selfie moment arises remember to keep it ridiculous but consider it’s impact. Unless you are an artist on a feminist mission, keep your clothes on.