18 September

Fuddy-Duddies Beware! From Maria, A Vulva Pillow

by Jon Katz
The Vulva Potholder

Fresh from the fertile and fiercely independent mind of Maria, the new Vulva Pillow, sketched on an old hanky and hand-stitched. It is on sale now for $85 on Etsy. The Vulva series began with the Vulva potholders and is evolving into notecards and stickers.

A small but vocal number of people – women, mostly, to my surprise, were offended by Maria’s artistic representation of the vulva, which is not the same thing as the vagina. Some thought it was “repulsive”, some used the word “disgusting,” and some thought it was just plain old “offensive.”

It is true that outrage and criticism are louder than praise, and Maria found there is a large and admiring audience for her Vulva work, and also that a number of women wrote her to say they would love Vulva art but were somewhat afraid to buy some. She has sold a lot of Vulva art.

I would buy this pillow in a second for our living room, but I am banned from buying her art. She thinks it isn’t fair, that it should go out into the world.

If the Fuddy Duddies, as I call them,  thought their grumbling would stop my wife, they must live in those states that sell marijuana legally.

Maria loves the idea of the vulva, and sees it – accurately, from my reading – as a powerful symbol of feminism and of the need for women to stop hating their bodies, or permit men to make them hate their bodies.

As a man, I was quite shocked by some of the vitriolic, even hateful messages I got about putting the Vulva potholders up on my blog, although many people were thoughtful and civil in their objections or discomfort, I should say in fairness.

People said it would be deeply offensive to them if Maria made Penis Potholders (sorry, she has and sold them all) or if any artist used the male penis in their art. I guess they have not ever been to Florence to see Michelangelo’s David, penis and all, or visited any great museum in the world, or the Vatican Art Collection, which has penises and vaginas galore.

I think the Fuddie-Duddies might want to check out George O’Keefe’s beloved and much praised vagina and vulva art – I’m not aware of anyone calling it  disgusting or repulsive.

For thousands of years, artists have created representations of the male and female human body, it is only recently that people thought it disgusting or offensive. Personally, I find the vulva quite beautiful and powerful, and I am quite proud of my wife for seeking to capture the Vulva as a symbol of the lost but now growing power of women.

Art like this is not created to offend or titillate, there is nothing pornographic, or even specific about it. If you look at the news, it is clear that something very powerful is happening to women in our world. There is no shame in a vulva.

And there is nothing disgusting to me about this pillow.  I believe the person who buys it will be fortunate to have so interesting and thoughtful and striking a piece of art. Down with Old Fartism in all of its many ingrained forms.

And down with the shaming of women and their bodies, or men either, for that matter.

The Vulva Pillow is going up on Maria’s Etsy Page even as I speak. I doubt it will stay there for long. Good work, wonderful woman, your art lives in your heart and spirit and sails out into the world like our better angels.


  1. Have you ever checked out “The Dinner Party” by Judy Chicago on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art? Pretty much set the world on it’s ass in the 70’s. Vulvas galore and the inspiration for “The Invention of Wings.” Good historical book, bad, bad ending. Author should be embarrassed.

    1. Tasteless is not a thoughtful criticism, it is an insult. We don’t do that here. You are welcome to disagree. But explain yourself in a civil way or get lost. This is not Fox News or CNN.

  2. For as long as I can remember, and I am have been on this earth a good number of years, women have been struggling against objectification. We struggled to be seen as whole beings, not just as our sexual or reproductive parts (T & A.) We fought to prove that we were capable and intelligent. Now women wear vaginas on their heads and sew vulvas on their pillows and call it feminism. How modern. I bet the “good ole boys” are chuckling.

    1. I don’t know any good old boys, Nancy, so I can’t say if they are chuckling or not. I don’t think it’s a big deal, any more than it a big deal when Georgia O’Keefe or Michelangelo did it..

  3. Saying a vagina hat and a vulva pillow is like the work of Georgia O’Keefe is like saying the naked reclining women on a mud flap are like the works of Renoir. Really?
    And if this is not a big deal to you – quit posting about it. Your post was intentionally antagonistic so people would reply. Then you criticized a post for not containing “thoughtful criticism” I give you “thoughtful criticism” and your response is it is “no big deal.” So I can only conclude that you don’t really want to discuss an idea, you simply want people to agree or put them in their place. Very manly of you.

    1. Yes, really, if you know anything about Georgia O’Keefe you will see countless references to her work as being influenced by the vulva and the vagina, this is not a new idea. You can also find many representations of vulvas, vaginas, and penises in great museums all over the world, including the Vatican Museum. And yes, I am happy when people agree with me, and judging from the contemptuous and aggreived tone of your message, I would imagine you do also. I am pleased to be called manly, even in jest, it happens rarely. I am usually called a girly man, maybe that’s why I like vulvas. It is not a big deal, really, people like you make it one. If not for messages like yours, we would have long ago moved on. And I don’t see much that is thoughtful in your comments, just some huffing and puffing and whining.

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