vi coactus

{compelled by force}


CLITERACY, 100 Natural Laws is mixed media project that explores a paradox;  the global obsession with sexualizing female bodies in a world that is illiterate when it comes to female sexuality. CLITERACY is a new way of talking about citizenship, sexuality, human rights, and bodies. The project reveals the – phallic as neutral – bias in science, law, philosophy, politics, mainstream and even feminist discussion, and the art world - which is so saturated with the female body as subject. Using text as form, CLITERACY explores the construction of female sexual bodies as passive vehicles of reception defined by lack. It confronts a false body of knowledge by scientists who have resisted the idea of a unique, autonomous female body and rather studied what confirmed their assumption that women’s anatomy was the inverse of male anatomy, and that reproduction was worthy of study, while female sexuality was most certainly not. In the last ten years there have been tremendous scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the clitoris. The clitoris is exponentially larger and more complex than commonly thought. What we think of as the clitoris, is only the tip of the iceberg.  While this discovery is shocking in its late arrival, the problem of global ILLCITERACY is a salient allegory into the bigger problem of a female body, both cis and trans female, constructed by men, with false information, the goal of control and a culture that defines femaleness as inferior and female sexual organs as taboo. CLITERACY builds upon my photographic practice and ongoing exploration of how power shapes knowledge, often through use of the visual, for the purpose of social control. 

As a transfeminine person, I have some issues with and feelings about this project.

It’s really, really, really cissexist. It’s also really important. I feel torn.

Look: you really shouldn’t say that you’re talking about "the bigger problem of a female body, both cis and trans female, constructed by men…" and then massively simplify the relationship between female gender and female bodies in such a way that you erase the trans* female body. 

Everything that you say about the cis female body and the social position of that particular kind of body and the lack of understanding about that kind of body and those bodies as sites of violence and, yes, sites of ‘phallusy’ — it’s all very well and true and smart. 

It’s also quite incomplete, if the topic at hand is the female body, and not just the cis female body.

I have a female body. Some females don’t have clits. My doctor calls my parts a penis and testicles. I personally call it my clit and cunts. Other non-op or pre-op transfeminine folk / trans* women have other names for parts that look the same as mine.

It becomes clear pretty quickly upon reading this wall that the clit you are talking about is not the kind of clit that I have. You DO recognize that “Clits come in all colors, shapes, and sizes”. I got excited when reading this. I was thinking: okay, maybe I was wrong. Maybe she gets it. And then: “some are diclits”. When this word is used by trans* people to refer to their own parts, it is overwhelmingly used by trans* guys.

Unless I missed something, this is the only trans* reference on the wall. It’s also messed up in a few ways:

  • It suggests that trans* male genitalia is cis female genitalia; it collapses trans* male experience into cis female experience / suggests that the former is merely a subset of the latter, when this is not how many trans* guys relate to their parts and their lives.
  • It erases transfeminine experience and is implicitly transmisogynistic; by explicitly including trans* men in a wall about female experience, it implicitly excludes trans* women from the same.
  • Even if ‘diclit’ is supposed to refer to trans* female parts, it’d be a pretty shitty solitary reference to those parts. This is especially true in the context of the other phrases in this piece, most of which link the word ‘clit’ exclusively to the cis female clit through various references and descriptions.

I wouldn’t have as much of a problem if you didn’t pay lip service (labia service?) to addressing “the bigger problem of a female body, both cis and trans female”, when in fact you actively, albeit probably accidentally, ignore trans female bodies through, well, not talking about them, as well as by positing such false binaries as Phallus vs. Female Body, when I, a transfeminine person, have both a phallus and a female body, but no cervix, no vulva, none of the other supposedly essentially-female parts you discuss.

Keep on preaching love of, care for, and knowledge about female bodies — all kinds of female bodies.