The young women on a mission to reclaim the word 'pussy'
We spoke to Chelsea Jones and Eva Sealove, the girls behind the playful Instagram @look_at_this_pusssy about tampons, female body shame and how we address feminism in the age of Instagram.
Why did you set this thing up?
ES: lookathispussy is an Instagram project that features a combination of original and crowd-sourced, visually euphemistic content, alongside original captions that cover a variety of feminist topics in a humorous way. We receive around 20 submissions per day via Instagram DM.
What does the word 'pussy' mean to you?
CJ: Simply put, 'pussy' was the preferred word for vagina for both of us. The terminology needed to have a broad definition that didn't feel infantilizing or too crude. 'Pussy' is used to signify 'weak' and there's an effort here to strip this meaning away.
ES: It felt the most natural to us, it's a bit edgy but not filthy. It has a kind of a universally pleasing and funny tonality. Plus, 'pussy' is a euphemism which mirrors the visually euphemistic images that we choose. We all know the internet was invented for cats.
Do American women feel uncomfortable talking ‘pussies’?
CJ: Maybe some do. Some are uncomfortable with words that are associated, like 'discharge' or 'moist'. This impulse is really Victorian to me and we should knock it off.
ES: There's a certain undercurrent of 'body positivity' circling the US, but there is still a culture of silence. Doesn't it feel so retro and idiotic hiding your tampon in your shirtsleeve on the way to the bathroom at the office?
Why do you think there is a stigma attached to talking about your own fanny? Yes, we say fanny over here...
ES: Yes, absolutely, there is a stigma. Talking about your genitals is typically frowned upon as impropriety. Internalised shame is the enemy, politeness is not. We're working to open a dialogue and using the pussy as a metaphor, but the shock value still works, which is kind of shocking. Whichever terminology works for you, use it. Be yourself.
What message are you trying to get across with your work?
ES: The female body is surveilled, yet remains shrouded in mystery and steeped in shame. 'Woman' is often read as monolithic. Gender is personal, gender is on a spectrum and doesn't always align with biological sex. We work in metaphor to represent multiplicity within a w/hole, with anti-shame being the primary goal.
CJ: We've been able to extend a discourse about some contemporary experiences that many identify with, which is cool. It's also a sort of best practice guide for how to think about sex with regard to females (and by extension, just to all people who like and are comfortable with a variety of things), breaking down some of the mystery that surrounds particularly female genitalia. It's our pussy Glastnost.
Do you think that some people interpret your work in the wrong way?
ES: Yes. Some people think we are simply disgusting, their reactions are very telling. Some people think we are trying to 'desexualise' the vagina, which is not the case. Our goal here is not to 'desexualise' an erogenous zone, but to cut through the mystery and fetishisation - look at it! It's real! We are here!
CJ: It's impossible to represent all people - no project can be all things. We're white, cisgendered females and never intend to be exclusionary, also we don't want to speak for a struggle that we do not know. This is a hard thing and we're still learning and adapting.
What's the best thing that’s happened as a result of this Instagram?
ES: Connecting with people and engaging in dialogue with our followers! We are so inspired by the support and are launching a podcast discussing the same issues.