1. This is Casey Jenkins, a performer and “craftivist” from Melbourne, Australia.
Jenkins recently freaked out the internet with her piece of performance art called “Casting Off My Womb.”
2. Jenkins’ project includes knitting from her vagina, but it wasn’t meant to freak everyone out. It was actually meant to make more people more, um, at ease with women’s vulvas.
“If you look at a vulva, you realise that it’s just a part of a body. It’s nothing that is shocking, or scary. Nothing’s going to run out and eat you up.”
3. “Casting Off My Womb” involves Jenkins “knitting from wool that I’ve inserted into my vagina” for 28 days.
Yup. From her vagina.
4. Jenkins explains: “Every day I take a new skein of wool that’s been wound so that it will unravel from the centre.”
5. “I stick it up inside me and then I pull out the thread and then knit.”
Jenkins says the process is “confining, as I’m attached to this knitting so I can’t really get up and move around” but insists that it’s “restrictive”, not painful.
6. Perhaps one of the elements of “Casting Off My Womb” that really got to people was the fact that the performance lasted 28 days.
Meaning it kept going even when Jenkins was on her period. (Yup.)
7. “The performance wouldn’t be a performance if I were going to cut out my menstrual cycle.”
Wouldn’t that make it, um, difficult? Jenkins explains it wasn’t all that bad: “When I’m menstruating it makes it a hell of a lot harder as the wool is wet, so you have to kind of yank at it.”
8. The reaction to “Casting Off My Womb” in the gallery she performs in has been positive. “When I’m sitting in the gallery and knitting a lot of the reaction is people saying ‘you’re so brave, you’re so brave’.”
She said that when you’re showing the vulva, you would expect the reaction to be “fear and repulsion,” but Jenkins thought her project would change things. She says, “Linking the vulva with something people do find warm and fuzzy and benign and boring, I hope people question fears and negative associations they have with the vulva.”
9. However, the reaction to this video of Jenkins explaining her project showed that not everyone loves vulvas as much as she does.
Like, not at all.
10. Comments have since been disabled on the video, and Jenkins has now written a response in the Guardian to those who were “disgusted” by her project.
“The response to the clip was immediate, massive and, for the most part, negative, marked with fear and repulsion. The word “ick” features heavily, as do “eww”, “gross” and “whyyyy?”. Exclamation points are afforded entire comment boxes, broken only by the odd question mark. Everything comes in for criticism; the menstrual blood used in the work probably cops the most, but viewers have taken swipes at my hair-cut, my eyebrows, my skin, my home-city, my choice of words, my knitting technique and the colour of my shirt. The nature of the response wasn’t unexpected, but the scale of it was and it’s been fascinating to watch.”
11. Of course, Jenkins’ article spurred new criticism in both the comments on the piece and on Twitter. As she put it, “People are incensed!”
16. But, basically, Jenkins doesn’t care. She has “complete confidence” in her work and “thousands of internet opinions” cannot change that.
“But regardless of whether they take that path or not, I am proud of Casting Off My Womb. I have created a performance piece that I believe is beautiful and valid and I know that this belief can withstand all the negativity in the world.”