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The Battle for Vaginas

British feminists versus cosmetic labia surgery on the streets of London.

In December, feminist action group UK Feminista found out that an increasing number of British women are paying doctors to cut off bits of their vagina. For some reason, they didn't like the idea of that very much, so they went down to London's labia misbehaviour hotspot Harley Street to make some noise about it.

I know what you're thinking – you're thinking 'December?! That was last year.' And you're right. Sorry this is so late. But have you seen the state of your pubes recently? Sometimes it just takes a while to get things done. Anyway, I immediately felt welcome at the "Muff March", and I don't even have a vagina. It drew a good crowd and the spirit of unity was intoxicating. Proud possessors of myriad types of muff were in attendance…


Younger people with younger muffs…

Older people, with older muffs…

A dog that may or may not have a muff, but was willing to come down and register its support for the concept of muffs anyway…

And Socialist Worker muffs. Yeah, I wasn't sure what Karl Marx had to do with vaginal surgery, either. Something to do with divisions of labia? ;(

And here are the victims, turning up for their appointments with Dr H. Egemony and Nurse Pat Riarchy. For some reason, they didn't seem to appreciate the crowd's chants and woops of female solidarity all that much.

As usual, there was a man on hand to make sure things didn't get out of control.

And, as usual, that man totally failed to do his job.

The gist of UK Feminista's argument was that the porn industry, with its nihilistic approach to the aesthetics of the female pubic region, is putting pressure on women to live up to the things their boyfriends click on by mistake late at night when they've gone to bed or whenever they happen to have left the house. They attempted to put this argument across by wearing comedy wigs on their crotches and dancing vigorously to Ray Charles ("Shake a Tail Feather", naturally, not "Lonely Avenue").

The placard makers of UK Feminista were in no mood to let the rich pun opportunity of an anti-designer vagina march pass them by. Behold:

After a drawn-out conversation with two Socialist Worker reps (about how to read the rise in popularity of boutique plastic surgery amongst sexually emancipated women, socio-economically chained to the inverted upper-middle class expectations of their countercultural female identity, through a Trotskyite revisionist intepretation of Marx) I managed to escape their attempts to recruit me and instead spoke to Kat Baynard, founder of UK Feminista, at length about vaginas.


Kat Baynard, UK Feminista founder.

"It's about speaking back to a porn culture that is telling women that their genitals don't look right. They're not small enough, they're not smooth enough, that's come about as a result of the growth of pornography, it's proliferated and become part of our cultural wallpaper. Women in pornography don't have pubic hair, the pornographers prefer women to look like adolescent girls. The labia becomes more exposed, it becomes part of the package that is objectified to the nth degree. We're here today because of the advertisements of these surgeries around London, advertising surgery as a way to empower and a solution. But really they just want to slice up bodies."

A number of respected sources have raised medical concerns about the dangers of this unregulated clit-slitting industry. There are, of course, instances when surgery such as labiaplasty (trimming or removing the labia) or vaginal rejuvenation are recommended, even deemed necessary, for health reasons. However, if it's just a new look you're after, the possibility of things going wrong do include the usual endearing surgical hazards, such as bleeding, scarring, infection, the general nastiness of having the most intimate part of your body sliced away at by strangers and the stress of wondering what the doctors do with the offcuts. Besides, I just wrote the words "clit-slitting industry". Do we really need an industry for that?

If Kat Baynard is right – and I suspect that, broadly speaking, she is – then I guess it all comes down to one question: Can you stop porn? I fear the answer to that would depress the women of UK Feminista, but who am I to piss on their dreams of a newer, more egalitarian sexual playing field, one that sort of resembles Eyes Wide Shut, but with everyone wearing stick-on Tony Benn masks and listening to "Sexuality" by Billy Bragg? Exactly. I'm no one. So I guess that, for now, the fight against customised vaginas will continue to play out on London's streets.