Interview: Vagina-Nomics - Destigmatising Female Pleasure Through Art and Design
Hi Cecilia and Gabriela! First off, what a pleasure to interview you!
Hello, thank you for interviewing us. We are thrilled to talk to you.
I have been following your work for some time and am so enraptured by the movement your work is part of. So, let’s start with the basics, can you describe Vagina-nomics in your own words?
Vagina-nomics is a feminist platform de-stigmatising pleasure through art and design. We produce a biannual magazine, organise events and bring together like-minded artists from a variety of disciplines. We attempt to normalise the conversation around taboo subjects such as intercourse, periods, body positivity, female empowerment and gender equality.
Vagina-nomics was created by two design managers, Cecilia Righini, creative director, and Gabriela Dittrichova, editor-in-chief. Through a variety of thought-provoking content created by leading feminist artists, we give voice to those who feel ashamed of discussing pleasure in public yet are eager to share their opinions. We bridge the gap between biology and public perception and show that sex is private but nothing to be ashamed of.
And what galvanised you to start Vagina-nomics? Is it your full-time job, a labour of love, side project, or ‘other’?
Vagina-nomics evolved from a university project in 2017 when Cecilia created a zine documenting how sex is marketed to women – hence the name which describes concepts related to vulvas and vaginas (not necessarily in a biological way). Following an enthusiastic response, Cecilia felt encouraged to continue with the project. Because of our shared love of publishing, we decided to create a magazine. Once we started gathering materials, we realised how complex and loaded this topic is and decided to utilise other media to keep the conversation going. The magazine comes out in May and November each year, but we simultaneously run a blog, curate an online store and organise regular events. In the future, we plan to branch out to other mediums to be able to reach and interact with people from all walks of life.
How have people reacted to Vagina-nomics?
From the beginning, we have received amazing feedback. As we continue on our journey of de-stigmatising pleasure through art and design, we start coming across the same faces – be it artists, enthusiasts or business people. And so, without planning it, we became a part of an ever-growing community of like-minded individuals who all support the same cause but all in their own unique ways.
Vagina-nomics covers themes of body positivity, female pleasure, sexual assault, periods, and porn – to name but a few. What main message/s do you want readers of Vagina-nomics to take away from their experience of the website or magazine?
We aim to inspire and encourage our readers to talk about sex and sexuality without being embarrassed or ashamed. We use art and design to create a safe space and encourage a sensitive conversation about feminist topics. We want the reader to feel empowered to talk about pleasure without any restrictions or limitations.
Vagina-nomics uses art and design as its main force to destigmatise female pleasure. What advantages do art and design have as an advocacy tool, particularly on your topic?
Approaching sex through art and design is a way of not having the subject ‘in your face’ yet creating a tool to discuss it openly. Our research showed that people feel more comfortable talking about pleasure in this way. Slowly but surely, Vagina-nomics is becoming a taboo-breaker regarding everything feminist!
Why do you think the vagina is so taboo? What effects do you think this (the vagina’s taboo-ness) has on women and girls?
Since childhood, we are under the influence of patriarchy, and that includes women, men, transgender and non-binary people. Baby boys are celebrated for touching their genitals whilst girls are often being told not to. Why is that? We believe that no one should be restricted by societal pressures and everyone should have complete freedom to express their own interests and preferences – in bed and outside. Even with our name we often find people struggling to let it off their lips, but many feel relieved once they do – that is great, and we want to encourage this positive behaviour in every possible way we can.
IdeaSphere is all about re-imagining the world. If you re-imagined the world in Vagina-nomics’ image – that is, if your message became the norm, what would the world look like?
That is a very nice question :). In the Vagina-nomics’ world, everyone will be able to talk about sex in the same way they talk about what they had for breakfast. Just like vagina is a body part which, as a word, should not be treated any differently to, let’s say, a hand, so sex should be a normal part of any conversation. We do not say that you must talk about sex all the time (though, can we?) but we want to make people feel at ease talking about it should they wish to do so. Vagina-nomics’ world treats sex like breakfast!
Vagina-nomics describes itself as a feminist platform attempting to normalise the conversation around taboo subjects like female pleasure. How do you think that change will be made? Will it require legal efforts as well as artistry?
Just the fact that our name got declined by the British government when we were registering as a company as well as social media platforms, and our posts get regularly taken down, shows that there is clearly a need for change. As we start meeting more people whose work fights against societal taboos, we are very happy to see that people have started recognising us. We believe that through approaching individuals, we can create a strong enough influence that might inspire some institutions to change their approach. However, as our training is in design management and not in law, we choose to focus on what we know best – connecting beautiful art and design which supports a great cause with a broad audience. Our aim is to change the perception and maybe influence someone who has the power to initiate change on a legal level.
Out of pure interest, what do you think of a human or women’s right to be free from sexual assault (including freedom from street harassment & image-based sexual abuses such as revenge porn & up-skirting, as well as already-criminalized abuses like rape/assault) and a human or women’s right to incorporate women’s bodies into the public sphere? For example, by ensuring women can menstruate, give birth, and lactate without compromising on their participation in the public sphere?
We believe in the power of awareness so, of course, womxn’s bodies should be more incorporated in the public sphere but our aim is for everyone to become more aware about the socially-constructed norms we currently live in. In collaboration with the London-based artist Shauna Fox, we are currently developing a ‘harassment map’ that shows the different experiences of womxn from around the world: soon, anyone will be able to add their stories. Any change starts with the why and now is the time to ask: why should we live in patriarchy?
Is there a human right to sexual pleasure?
Absolutely, YES! :)
If you enjoyed this interview please consider supporting Vagina-Nomics through their Kickstarter to deliver Issue #2 of their magazine. Your pledge will get you fantastic goodies in return such as stickers, badgers, tote bags, and issues of Vagina-Nomics itself, depending on your pledge, enjoy!