'The reaction to my vaginal knitting shows society is still telling a woman what to do with her body'

Performance artist Casey Jenkins defends her piece 'Casting Off My Womb' against online criticism

A performance artist who knits using wool previously inserted inside her vagina has defended her craft, saying the onslaught of criticism she has attracted shows just how much society prescribes what a woman should do with her body.

Casey Jenkins’ performance piece “Casting Off My Womb” is 28 days long, representing the woman’s menstrual cycle. The Melbourne-based artist admits it is “unusual and it’s confining because I’m attached to the knitting so I can’t get off and wander around..but it’s not painful.”

A short clip of her piece, which has come to be known as “vaginal knitting”, has been viewed millions of times worldwide. Since the clip went viral, her art, her body, her face and her mental health have all come under aggressive questioning by online commenters. In a piece for the Guardian, Ms Jenkins writes back, saying the reception has not dinted her confidence in her work.

The 34-year-old addresses what she feels probably “arrested the web’s attention” the most: the marriage of wool and womb. She says her vaginal knitting“pares concepts about body parts and activities related to women back to their most elemental” according to Jenkins.

Additionally she seeks to qualify claims she is an “attention seeker” writing that as an artist she wants to communicate ideas, and for that she needs an audience. However, she says she is not seeking "external validation of myself – in fact, the work is primarily about casting off the need for validation from external sources.”

On this theme, she expands, saying that despite the work featuring her vagina: “ it is an entirely different body part that seems to infuriate the most: my face. Commentators seem to be genuinely outraged that I would dare to do something that they view as strange and repulsive with my body without displaying shame. Women putting themselves forward in any capacity in the world is frowned upon, and for a woman to put herself forward in a way that is not designed to be attractive or pleasing is downright seditious.”

Ms Jenkins has previously defended her decision to continue knitting in the Darwin Visual Arts Gallery during her menstruation, telling Salon earlier this month that if she had stopped the piece would not have had the same resonance. She said the time spent alone with her knitting needles allowed her to contemplate whether she wanted to have children and what she wanted to do with her own body.

She hopes the reaction to her work has highlighted how society dictates what women should do with their bodies and maintains her own right to do what she wants with her own.

You can read her full piece at the Guardian.

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