“For myself and others like me”: women’s contributions to vulva-positive social media
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Vulva-positive websites, a sub-type of body-positive sites, reveal women’s discursive, affective, and pragmatic responses to ideals of “normal” and “beautiful” female genitalia. Body-positive sites have been positioned by critical feminist and Foucauldian theorists as facilitating women’s self-surveillance and regulation. To understand how women represent what a vulva-positive site does and what it means to them, we analysed a year’s textual posts to the Large Labia Project. We identified three key themes: the site as (1) a pedagogical tool addressing a knowledge gap, (2) a provider of support and solidarity, and (3) an enabler of challenge to female genital normativity. These themes constitute a discursive orientation towards the pedagogical and social rather than primarily the individual and psychological. We argue that vulva-positive sites can function as significant sources of solidarity and support for women within complex and contradictory post-feminist digital cultures. In this context, however, we maintain a critical stance of “ambivalence” towards such sites, considering intensified gendered calls towards self-actualisation through self-exposure. In post-feminist media cultures that are frequently contradictory in address to women and girls, we conclude that the call to “exposure” comes from an increasingly complex range of voices and under diverse pretexts for women.
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