Aaliya Jamal Zaidi
Vulva Gazing: Power and the Gendered Body
How does a gendered gaze determine what we feel shame about?
In patriarchal society, the male gaze is normal. Within its sights, the vulva, the external female sexual and reproductive organs, is viewed negatively — censored and ignored, or labeled with euphemisms and slurs across cultures. The modern western medical canon upholds and reinforces this view of the vulva, through a combination of disinterest and omission. This cultural aversion leads to a personal aversion. For people with vulvas this manifests in a lack of information about their own bodies which leads to shame, pain and even death.
Vulva Gazing is an invitation to become curious, empowered and shame-free. This work explores how sex-ed contributes to gendering, how shame is experienced in relation to the body through teenage years and well into adulthood, and the role art and design can play in challenging shame and promoting pleasure. The lens of pleasure can disrupt conventional social relations that stigmatizes female agency. I have found that the act of gazing at the vulva is critical to radically normalizing the gendered female body.
I ask you to imagine, what might happen if every person could live in their body without shame?
Vulva Mirror 1: Velvet Beanbag
Velvet, Glass Beads, Rice, Mirrored Acrylic
Designed to be super adjustable so that it moves around your body and not vice versa. This mirror is a bedside companion with a weighted softness that invites you to check on your vulva.
Vulva Mirror 2: Soft Strap
Jacquard, Foam, Cotton Webbing, Metal, Mirrored Acrylic
Viewing the vulva requires a different type of ergonomics than mirrors that are designed for the face/vanity mirrors. This mirror uses adjustable straps that use the user's legs for support and can rest hung up on your wall next to wall art or even on a bedpost.
Vulva Mirror 3: Arm Clip
Metal, Jacquard, Cotton Webbing, PLA, Mirrored Acrylic
What's essential in a vulva mirror is the ability to adjust it around your body and the position that is most comfortable. This mirror can be adjusted and then engaged with hands-free so that the user can conduct self-exams and -exploration and any use pertaining to the vulva or otherwise.
- Design Engineering
- Digital + Media
- Furniture Design
- Global Arts and Cultures
- Graphic Design
- Industrial Design
- Interior Architecture
- Jewelry + Metalsmithing
- Landscape Architecture
- Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies