Vagina dialogues: theorizing the ‘designer vagina’ – new book chapter by Ruth Holliday

Professor Ruth Holliday has been writing about ‘designer vagina’s. Her chapter ‘Vagina dialogues: theorizing the “designer vagina”‘ is published in Body, Migration, Re/constructive Surgeries: Making the Gendered Body in a Globalized World (Routledge, edited by Gabriele Griffin, Malin Jordal):

Accounts of the ‘designer vagina’ have frequently linked it to ‘traditional’ practices of FGM (or, less pejoratively, FGC), said to reduce women’s sexual pleasure. Many writers claim that cuts to the vagina are particularly sinister since they are made to such an intimate and private part of the body. However, the vagina is perhaps the bodily part most likely to be cut or stitched because of childbirth. And given the technologies available to alter its appearance, from waxing to labiaplasty, we must also ask ourselves how ‘private’ the vagina now is. Feminists have largely correlated such practices negatively with the increasing circulation of pornography, neoliberalism, post-feminism, consumerism and the ‘re-entrenchment’ of sexism (Gill and Donaghue, 2013), though not with what we might call ‘vaginal diversity’ on body-positive websites. Certainly these are mechanisms of visibilization. However, is the ‘neoliberal vagina’ simply bad for women? Or are there continuities and disjunctures between feminism and neoliberalism that paint a more complex picture of the ‘designer vagina’? Here I argue that within the context of the visible vagina, the privileging of patient autonomy, and the moral imperative to find happiness by ‘doing something’ work to reconfigure the vagina as alterable in the pursuit of pleasure.