Back in 2001, when Katharine Graham passed away (in an essay hilariously titled “Kay, Why?”) Mark Steyn wrote:
Obituary-wise, Kay was the hostess with the mostes’, but nevertheless an inevitable hierarchy quickly set in, with points for how recently you’d last seen her (“At lunch last month …”) and a bonus for whether she’d come to you (Barbara Walters scored big here, entertaining Kay at her pad in the Hamptons). Many anecdotes were told and re-told and re-re-told: 30 years ago, dining at the home of columnist Joe Alsop, Mrs. Graham discreetly rebelled by refusing to join the ladies while the men discussed world affairs over brandy and cigars. As she modestly explained to Larry King on CNN, this brave stand singlehandedly brought about an end to the custom throughout the town. Perhaps Washington was singularly backward in this respect. By this stage, in London, New York, Winnipeg, all the great cities of the world, the ladies were no longer obliged to retire after dinner, a social revolution accomplished amazingly enough without the intervention of Mrs. Graham.
Perhaps to make up for the imagined slights of the late 1960s and early 1970s, this week, Slate, a Website owned by the Washington Post, is sagely cautioning its distaff readers, “Insecure About Your Vagina? Sharing a Photo on the Internet Won’t Fix That:”
Feeling anxious about your labia? Just stick a cellphone camera between your legs, post the photo to the Internet, and invite strangers to discuss what you’re working with. That’s the theory behind the Large Labia Project, a submission-based Tumblr that encourages women to air their insecurities (and their vaginal selfies) in the spirit of “labia pride.”
Here’s how it works: Take a photo of your vagina. Share your feelings. (“Hey! I’m so self-conscious and feel insecure about showing my labia.”) Then shoot it over to 24-year-old moderator Emma, who will invariably heap praise on your submission. “Wow you look so beautiful!” she wrote of one photo. “Any sane guy seeing that would be getting an instant boner in anticipation of the awesome playground between your legs.”
Pre-Internet, sex-positive feminists used to treat vaginal anxiety by distributing hand mirrors and inviting women to take an intimate look at themselves. Why should modern women take the added step of sharing their findings with the class? Emma says she launched the site in order to counter the images pushed by the porn industry, which provides a “false view of what real women look like.” Clicking through the photos on the site, Jezebel’s Madeleine Davies was “taken aback by the diversity of shapes and sizes that were depicted” and says she found it “interesting (and mildly depressing) to see how the norms of pornography [have] become pervasive in mainstream culture.” She was particularly surprised that she’s internalized these norms, because she “doesn’t even regularly watch porn.”
But when you start a movement that says, “Our porn-obsessed society thinks your vagina is weird, but it’s not,” you risk reinforcing the first part of that message before moving on to the empowerment part.
You don’t say. Between this and the younger lads at the Post sticking a collective shiv into its best-known journalist to protect the president, allow me a moment with a Macanudo and a Remy while I get my bearings navigating the uncharted waters of big journalism in the 21st century.