To set the record straight, she doesn’t knit WITH her vagina… she knits FROM it.
And if you are reading this, chances are that you’ve watched the video by now, or heard the term “vagina knitting.” Just like you, I stumbled upon Casey Jenkins’ “Casting Off My Womb” by casually browsing the internet. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make out of it, so I watched it over and over again.
In her art, and through various forms of activism, Jenkins, a loud spoken feminist, addresses issues of gender inequality and sexism that are somewhat invisible and insignificant to most.
GiGi Campos (GC): The use of the female body and knitting both played an integral part in the 1980’s feminist movement. Do you think that knitting is a gender specific craft?
Casey Jenkins (CJ): Not necessarily. Or at least not by definition… but knitting and craft in general are heavily associated with one gender. It’s not a neutral activity, and when you are starting out, it comes with all kinds of gender confessions, which is why I’m drawn to it. Working with your own body as a feminist has a big history in the art world and that’s because
women in this world are entirely defined by their bodies.
(GC): Nowadays, the words “cunt” and “bitc”’ are most often used to offend and attack women. How does language play part in your work?
(CJ): I am fascinated by language and by how it defines and shapes our world. It shapes our existence and how we perceive and interact with one another. The latest piece I did, “Casting Off My Womb”, is not connected with language at all. However, other things that I’ve done in the past have been concerned with language. I often find that the feedback we get when we address the issue of language is that “it’s not really important,” but I find it to be of vital importance.
(GC):Where do you encounter issues of gender inequality in today’s society?
(CJ): I think that it runs through almost every aspect of life. From the moment we are born, we are supposed to identify as male or female, and that sets our path in so, so many ways. What you are supposed to be interested in, how you are supposed to behave, and how you interact with other people. To me, this doesn’t feel like it’s based on reality or anything that has to do with logic. And yet, its all pervasive; but we have taken on these roles based on habit and how society is ran.
(GC):How does “Casting Off My Womb” express concern with regards to feminism, other than provoke shock value?
(CJ): When you got through all of the comments that people make on the internet, one of the big things is that this piece was done to shock and to grab attention. And I’ve done stuff in the past, through activisms, that had been created specifically to direct your attention to an issue… but this was not. I think that people, in retrospect, will see something that has caught their attention and they immediately assume, “She’s just doing it for the attention,” and they say it as a criticism. I think that has to do with the idea that women should step back and not seek to draw attention to them and take the back seat. It’s a good thing to put yourself forward and get your views out there, but the primary focus of this work wasn’t that. In fact, I was trying to strip away everything that could shock people, but I still wanted to work with the vulva and menstruation. I was making it so slow and gentle. In the context of the gallery space, it worked; people were coming in and telling me that this was as melodramatic as watching paint dry. The internet, on the other hand, is whole another deal, but
I’m still hopeful that given the time, people will get over the visual repulsion and discover its values and relate to it.
Note: Dear ‘Unofficial Critics’-the next time someone comes out and decided to change the world, take a moment to understand the cause!