Warning: This article features illustrations of vulva that may not be safe for work. Many, many beautiful illustrations of vulva.
According to illustrator Hilde Atalanta, “all vulvas are amazing and beautiful just the way they are.”
Atalanta would know ― she is the digital proprietor of the Vulva Gallery, a collection of illustrations that celebrate the vulva in all its glorious diversity. She is also the gallery’s primary artist; all of the portraits showcased on a dedicated website and on Instagram are hers.
The gallery’s mission is clear: “The only way to change the way [...] individuals experience their bodies is to educate them, and others, about the natural diversity,” she explained in a statement to The Huffington Post. She does so by drawing the many manifestations of female genitalia, over and over again, with few details spared, discussing the variety in her captions along the way.
Thanks to decades of body-conforming fashion ads and a pop culture sphere dominated by ideals, women haven’t always felt that diversity is beautiful. Moreover, a desire to fit into preconceived notions of beauty doesn’t just apply to the ways ladies scrutinize their waists, lips and breasts. Some women seek perfection in their vagina, too.
“In the past decade there has been an enormous increase in labiaplasty amongst young women,” Atalanta explained. Labiaplasty, she clarified, is a cosmetic surgery meant to partly or entirely alter the size of the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva). “In my opinion, labiaplasty because of cosmetic reasons isn’t a good development. No vulva-owning individual should have to undergo this just because they want their vulva to look like the ones they see on the internet.”
Throughout our exchange, Atalanta used the term “vulva” over “vagina,” correctly noting that the vagina is only the internal part of the female genitals. While we tend to agree with Lindy West, who said that “at this point in our linguistic evolution [the vagina’s] become a general term for the general lady-area,” Atalanta makes a strong case for vulva usage:
The vulva consists of the external part of the female genital organs: the mons pubis, the labia majora and labia minora, the clitoris and the clitoral hood, the bulb of vestibule, the vulval vestibule, urinary meatus, greater and lesser vestibular glands, the vaginal opening, the pudendal cleft, sebaceous glands, the urogenital triangle (anterior part of the perineum), and pubic hair. I think we shouldn’t reduce the vulva just to its birth canal, when there’s so much more to it than that!
Ultimately, Atalanta says she finds it very difficult to see how far many individuals go to “reach the ‘perfect’ looks.” Not that she doesn’t understand why it happens. “Like so many teenagers growing up, I’ve also been insecure about my own body,” she added.
But she hopes that the Vulva Gallery can, in whatever small way, contribute to the way people view the broad range of body diversity ― particularly, vulva diversity, reiterating to HuffPost: “They are perfect just the way they are. Because diversity is beautiful.”