Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

No More Cutting: how these delicate paper vaginas are raising awareness of FGM

no-more-cutting.jpg

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is brutal. It’s estimated that around 200 million women and girls around the world have had to endure the practice, which involves the labia being cut and the clitoris and/or its hood being cut or fully removed.

Contrary to popular belief, FGM is not rooted in religious belief; it has traditionally been performed in countries with cultures as diverse as Indonesia and Sierra Leone. Rather, it stems from traditional ideas of modesty and purity, and a desire to control women’s sexuality. In its most extreme form, genital cutting is designed to make sex so painful that women will never become promiscuous.

FGM is recognised as a human rights violation by the UN, and was outlawed in the UK in 1985 – but it still goes on. Between January and March in 2016 alone, more than 1,200 cases of FGM were newly recorded in England.

Now, a group of artists have created a project to raise awareness of FGM, with the aim of ending the practice within a generation.

nmc

Image: No More Cutting

No More Cutting is the brainchild of Mandy Smith, director of the Papersmith studio in Amsterdam. Working with paper artist Oksana Valentelis, photographer Kyla Elaine and interactive production company Random Studio, Smith has curated a collection of paper vaginas of all shapes and sizes, with the intention of highlighting the “diversity and uniqueness” of the natural female body.

“FGM was a topic I've been extremely interested in since I stumbled across it whilst researching another project for university 10 years ago,” Smith tells Stylist.co.uk. “I was completely shocked and it has always stayed with me as something I wanted to do something to try to raise money for, and make more people aware of to open up discussions on.”

No More Cutting features 81 small, delicate artworks, each modelled on a real vagina. Paper was chosen as a medium to “signify fragility” – as well as being a way of alluding to cutting without actually showing cut genitals.

x

Image: No More Cutting

While researching the project, it occurred to Smith that there was a parallel between the issue of FGM and the rise of labiaplasties – known colloquially as “designer vagina” surgery – in Western culture.

The most recent available NHS figures on labiaplasties showed that some 2,000 operations were performed on women in the UK in 2010, representing a fivefold increase on the previous decade. A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that when repeatedly exposed to images of modified female genitalia – the kind one might see in pornography – women’s perceptions of what constituted “normal and desirable” genitals changed. This, they warned, could encourage women to seek unnecessary surgery.

Smith tells Stylist.co.uk that she finds the rise of labiaplasties, especially among younger women, upsetting for different reasons to FGM.

“[I am concerned about] the over-sexualisation of younger people so they feel their body is more of an object to look a certain way for a certain audience, instead of realising they are completely normal and having the inner peace and confidence that comes from that,” she says.

“With female genitals being a taboo subject of sorts, I also wanted to educate people in general on the sheer volume of how unique the female genitals are – and how they should be celebrated and kept as nature intended.”

x

Image: No More Cutting

Smith hopes to bring the No More Cutting exhibition to London in the future. In the meantime, women over the age of 18 are invited to submit images of their vaginas anonymously through the No More Cutting website, to be turned into paper art. Supporters can also buy individually crafted ‘vagina badges’ and commission custom artwork, with all profits going to women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

Related

ladybits 1.jpg

Beautifully illustrated zine aims to educate us all about our vaginas

beach-body-ready.jpg

Mayor of London bans adverts that “demean” women

310_tablet_womens_equality_LEAD_v1.jpg

Just who are the Women’s Equality Party and what do they stand for?

oliver-bonas-art.jpg

25 of the best prints to hang in your home

Sally Nixon 11.jpg

These illustrations beautifully capture women's everyday lives

lucy-hero.jpg

Lucy Mangan: "Will we finally end the horror of FGM?"

body image.jpg

Women with poor body image are more likely to take dangerous risks

international-decriminalisation-of-abortion-day-dublin-1.jpg

A look at reproductive rights around the world

peggy-guggenheim.jpg

Peggy Guggenheim: the woman whose life was art

More

Ryan Phillipe on how he tackles depression

“I’m thinking about how to focus and steady myself”

by Susan Devaney
17 Aug 2017

Are black girls being forced to grow up too fast?

A study has shown that black girls as young as five are seen as more adult than their white peers

by Kemi Alemoru
17 Aug 2017

Teen receives sickening messages after asking for career advice

This businessman's response was shocking

by Sarah Biddlecombe
17 Aug 2017

We want everything from this new high-street Disney collaboration

Seriously magical

by Megan Murray
17 Aug 2017

JK Rowling's video game confession has sparked a Twitter frenzy

The internet is LOVING it

by Megan Murray
17 Aug 2017

New law forces women in Texas to buy “rape insurance” for abortions

“I am proud to sign the legislation,” Governor Greg Abbott said

by Sarah Biddlecombe
17 Aug 2017

Mother of Charlottesville victim gives passionate memorial speech

“By golly, if I’ve got to give her up, we’re going to make it count.”

by Moya Crockett
17 Aug 2017

Dame Helen Mirren has her say on Ivanka and Melania Trump

She’s not one to bite her tongue

by Susan Devaney
16 Aug 2017

These are the most-searched gender-neutral baby names in the UK

Parents are increasingly leaning towards androgynous names, according to new research.

by Moya Crockett
16 Aug 2017

How to stop negative news stories impacting your mental health

14 ways to stay calm when the world’s headlines trigger your anxiety

by Kayleigh Dray
16 Aug 2017