Target: Tokyo artist Megumi Igarashi
Goal: Applaud Japanese artist for challenging repressive cultural perceptions of women’s bodies
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi vows to change Japan’s repressive cultural attitudes about the female body after she was jailed for six days on charges of distributing “obscene” material. The 42-year-old artist had raised $10,000 through crowdfunding to construct a kayak shaped like her vagina, hoping to challenge the culture of silence and shame surrounding female genitalia. She was arrested for emailing 3-D printer information of her scanned vagina to donors.
In a nation that only recently banned the possession of child pornography and where men are regularly seen reading male-produced sexually explicit comics in public, female voices about their own bodies are strangely absent. By constructing little knick-knacks as well as an ambitious kayak out of a scan of her vagina, Igarashi challenged how women’s bodies are depicted and discussed in Japan.
Igarashi argues that her artwork is not shameful, not obscene, and not even sexual. Instead, she is working to transform perceptions of female genitalia as inherently taboo, something to be covered up and covertly fetishized. At the heart of this discussion is a cultural notion that many countries across the world have internalized – that women’s bodies are always sexual and dangerous to men, and therefore must be controlled.
Police not only confiscated much of her artwork, but may still re-arrest and formally charge her. Igarashi, though, is ready for a legal battle to protest her mistreatment and to demand that Japan’s double standards about the definition of obscenity change.
Support Igarashi’s work as she continues to challenge both the charges against her and a culture that represses female bodies.
Dear Megumi Igarashi,
I was outraged to hear that you were arrested for creating and distributing so-called “obscene” materials earlier this month. Please continue to fight back against outmoded and repressive laws limiting female artists’ expression and sexualities.
The idea that women’s genitalia are inherently sexual and shameful is pervasive in many countries worldwide. For too long, male artists, publishers, and lawmakers have dominated the cultural narrative of female sexuality, claiming their “rights” to depict female bodies any way they please in pornography, movies, and media while simultaneously silencing the voices of those who inhabit them.
It’s time for women to create their own body narratives. Thank you for battling destructive notions through your artwork, your words, and your story. You are truly an inspiration for women worldwide.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Jesielt via Wikipedia Commons