When I first heard about vaginal knitting, I felt terrified. All I heard was “knits with her vagina” and I suddenly felt pain in my cervix. I thought the knitter was inserting the needles into her vagina and knitting using only the dexterity of her internal muscles to form each loop. Then wild jealousy set in because that’s a skill I haven’t worked on, dammit. I want to be a person person with perfect skills, and someone fucking beat me to knitting with my vag hurts.
Then I saw the video of crafter and Australian activist Casey Jenkins speaking about her “Casting Off My Womb” project and my thoughts completely changed. For this performance piece, which was part of the Darwin Visual Arts Association (DVAA) at Woods Street Gallery exhibit “Cunts…and Other Conversations” in Darwin, Australia, Jenkins knitted with the needles in her hands-thank God!-and only inserted a smallish skein of yarn into her vagina for each day of the performance. Then she knitted something that looks like a very long scarf with it, day by day, in the gallery. Did I mention that she did this for an entire month? 28 days of knitting means 28 days of typical vagina behavior. You know what I’m getting at, right? She still knitted even when she had her period. GROSS!!!!! Ew ew EW! NOOOO, screamed the internet. Fucking relax, folks. As Jenkins says in the interview, “If you take a good, hard look at a vulva, you realize it’s just a bit of a body. There’s nothing that is shocking or scary, you know, nothing that is gonna run out and eat you up.”
Before I cut loose with my thoughts and opinions, here’s the video if you actually haven’t seen it by now:
Clearly, from the way people have been writing about and responding to the idea of vaginal knitting, the vagina is scary, ugly, and gross. I disagree and am smitten with this project, and I’m offended by the jokes about “fishy scarves.” Cunts are seen in a variety of lights like dirty, sexy, and sacred. But for fuck’s sake, it’s, as Jenkins says, “it’s just a bit of a body.” But when a woman wants to make art that investigates a relationship between artistic creation and procreation, people are scared shitless. If you look at images and video from the performance, you see that it’s actually a very quiet piece. The noise around vaginal knitting has been coming from all of us on the internet.
The knit product, a scarf that is draped through various suspended metal hangers (which could suggest homemade abortion tools*), is a record of time, and yes, it’s marked with period stains. It’s a way of recording time and marking fecundity. A post-menopausal woman would have a different scarf. Women are sold pads and tampons all the time, with sanitation and freshness being a key marketing spin. Then we toss them away. Besides a few marks on the calendar, how many women really keep track of their period in an intimate way? I simply think that Jenkins did something unconventional and amazing, and I’m glad she did it.
Casey Jenkins does have a web page about her art. Go visit. This is the direct link for the “Casting Off My Womb” project. You can also listen to an Australian radio interview where she speaks about “Casting Off My Womb.”
*Abortion is not mentioned in by Jenkins with regard to “Casting Off My Womb.” This is my own observation.