Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A post with no name

On Sunday I made a collage of my vagina.

Not for fun. No. No no. No no no.

This was the final task set on the Art Therapy workshop I attended for 'Women who love women'. Or probably 'Wimmin who love womyn', as we seem to have been transported back to 1973.

Over Friday evening and Saturday daytime I had faced a fair few 'I would rather eat my own head, thanks' moments. I am shy. I am not remotely disinhibited on the vomit-free side of half a litre of tequila. You may be wondering why this didn't occur to me before I enrolled, but hey, it came highly recommended by someone I respect ... though she says the whole 'vagina collage' thing wasn't a feature of the course when she attended. Really, she missed out.

So, having spent my birthday weekend engaged in what I can only describe as a rare and exquisite form of torture, for the sake of brevity, let's call it 'Hackney Glitter Torture', we were set our last and most ridiculous challenge. Some of the other members were, understandably, confused. The therapist reassured us that anatomical accuracy was not the goal, and groped for analogies, settling on "If you were a box, what kind of box would you be?". I don't think she meant it quite so literally. (Sorry mum).

I sat, despairing, midst feathers, cardboard, tissue paper and copydex, living my very own Worst Nightmare, and the one and only positive thing I could think was "I am so gonna blog about this!".

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Blogger Random Reflections said...

Did they ask you to do this so that if you're ever having a really bad day you can at least look back and think "at least it's not as bad as my birthday when I had to make a collage of my vagina"?

I feel this is one of those things that puts life into perspective.

Two questions though (actually there are far more but I'm being restrained):

- Did you have to show your vagina to other people?
- Are you going to post it on your blog?

28 March, 2007 22:50  
Blogger Stray said...

You're so right RR! That was one of the other bits of learning I took away. The rest of the group and I went out for coffee afterwards, and took solace in the fact that should our lives fail to improve considerably following this intervention, we could at least leave a decent suicide collage.

Thanks for your restraint, I appreciate it.

1) Yes, the other members of the group. Very much "I'll show you mine if you show me yours". I have no idea whether I was more uncomfortable showing my own or looking at other people's.

2) No. Nor am I going to stick it to my fridge.


28 March, 2007 23:07  
Anonymous Daisy-Winifred said...

Oh lord I was there in 1973 and finger painting took on a whole new vista when at one 'empowering' event one workshop encouraged the wimmin to use vegetable food colour to make vagina prints - yep actually flesh on paper kind prints.

I of course walked into the 'exhibition' after this closed workshop and said to my companion rather too loudly 1) is this is a trial for lesbian alternative fingerprints 2) do you think they all feel like fairy cakes now.....

I was seriously challenged by one of the rather earnest very middleclass wimmin in the room as to whether I was actually a lesbian. As I told her NO, she began to steer me out of the door but let go when I dug my heels in and and continued No, I'm not 'actually' anything I am a lesbian, I am workingclass, I am fat, and I am empowered and I have a sense of humour thank goodness. With that I flounced out knowing this kind of lesbian would never make it in the wimmin stakes.

28 March, 2007 23:52  
Blogger Badger said...

Wow... thats insane.
I would have drawn nothing, totally nothing, not even a whisper of ink on paper. I wonder what that says about me?

Am glad you have no plans of popping it on the fridge, I dont think i would ever be able to eat again if you did. :)

Badger x

29 March, 2007 09:33  
Blogger brumcunian said...

Somehow I can't imagine a male creativity group sat there making willy collages with toilet rolls, pink crepe paper, and wire wool. Although the fact I have materials in mind to take on this project disturbs me! Where is the picture of your collage? Surely you need to post it to complete the humiliation.

29 March, 2007 10:28  
Blogger Stray said...

Brumcunian: There will be no public exhibition. I expect the rubbish has been collected by now anyway. I think you should make your willy sculpture though. It was truly enlightening and definitely moved me in terms of my ability to tolerate seemingly intolerable levels of embarrassment.

DW: I think you have just described the only form of "Art Therapy" that could have increased my level of discomfort. And some of us have allergies, don't they know! I can reassure you that there were fat, over-50, working class and even bisexual women on my workshop, so we have come a long way!

Badger: Some people might have been offended by your comment, but I am reassured. In fact, just to re-center ourselves, why don't we post a list of the rest of the season's footie fixtures on the fridge. That should do it ...

29 March, 2007 10:43  
Blogger Badger said...

Ah! yes, looking back I can see how that may be offensive. Damn me and my aspieness.


29 March, 2007 12:33  
Blogger PurpleSparkleBright said...

I can't imagine anything more horrible to be forced to do on one's birthday. I think you did really well just to be in the room!! I couldn't have done it. I loved the Vagina Monologues but there was no.... forced participation! I'm fairly horrified that this is what's called "therapy" and it seems that the only person it "empowers" is the therapist in charge of the glue-pot. What a thought.

29 March, 2007 21:21  
Blogger Caroline said...

You could take the design, start now and make your own Stray's vagina Christmas cards 2007.

I joke because otherwise I would cry for you.


29 March, 2007 22:44  
Blogger Stray said...

Badger - your barely-screened honesty is much appreciated.

PSB - Yes. I think this therapist was definitely a bit old school. As in "I'm the teacher - you're the pupil". Not how I'm used to being handled!

Caroline ... me too babe. Me too.


29 March, 2007 22:51  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would seriously question the motives of any one claiming to be an art therapist who set clients the challenge of creating anything specific (never mind a vagina) - particularly in a space where the clients hadn't yet been able to build up a level of safety.

That's not what art therapy is about - and I'm sorry if that has been your experience. It sounds quite traumatic. Art therapy can be a very beautiful and gentle way of working - to gain insight and strength. I hope you experience it someday.

That said ... there are an aweful lot of phallic objects produced during therapy!

30 March, 2007 00:51  
Blogger Ms Melancholy said...

Oh Stray, I have laughed and laughed! The only thing that would improve this post is a picture of your vagina collage - I am so intrigued. What were the learning outcomes of this particular aspect of the course? I would ask to see her documentation, if I were you.

30 March, 2007 23:50  
Blogger Stray said...

anonymous - it was a little traumatic but also quite comic. The group sort of united against the therapist in the end ... feeling utterly confused and quite exposed and unsupported.

I sort of get fed up with the concept that all the cylinders in the world are phallic representations :) Sometimes a cylinder is just a good shape! Especially because the manufacturing process is so easy ... (my inner engineer emerging).

Ms M - I didn't demand documentation! I should have :) Next time eh? Glad to have given you a giggle, which was clearly the only real positive to come out of the process. I would like to clarify again that the good binmen of North London will have long since retired my collage to a landfill site.


31 March, 2007 09:37  
Blogger Random Reflections said...

You like to think that your collage has been 'retired' by the bin men. In fact they saw it in the rubbish sack and have pinned it to the front of their bin lorry next to a couple of teddy bears.

One day you'll be walking along, you'll innocently glance at a bin lorry and there it will be in all its glory...

31 March, 2007 10:41  
Blogger Stray said...

RR, you are scaring me. I am never going to North London again.

If I have nightmares I will blame you.

That is a fab scenario for a sit com tho'!


31 March, 2007 14:41  

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