Blog Post Eight – Week Nine.
“It is highly probable that the nymphae, like the clitoris, are congenitally more prominent in some of the lower human races, as they are also in the apes” – Havelock Ellis, 1927.
Camille Nurka and Bethany Jones’ article ‘Labiaplasty: Race and the ColonialImagination’ explores the influence of early colonial race science discourse on the contemporary practice of cosmetic labiaplasty surgery. The authors highlight the importance of considering historical representations as well as more current social constructions and representations. Through the examination of photographs as well as ethnographic literature the authors reveal the way in which ideas about female genital area, especially what constitutes a ‘normal’ labia, has been shaped by racialised representations of black women’s labia portrayed by early western anthropologists.
This article poses some very important questions and draws parallels to issues which I will discuss in my essay. Some examples of this are: what constitutes a ‘normal’ body?, How are these ideas constructed? What kinds of power relations exist in these contexts?, And one which I hadn’t considered until now; what historical influences have shaped our current perceptions?
It also highlighted the way in which the idea of otherness is used in order to legitimize what we perceive to be normal. In order to recognize normal we must first understand what is seen to be abnormal. This binary logic is ever apparent in “before and after” photos of breast surgery, a phenomenon which I will be examining in my essay.
Nurka, C & Jones, J (2013) Labiaplasty, ‘Race and the Colonial Imagination’, Australian Feminist Studies, 28:78, 417-442,