Lili Sohn - Women's rights and women's bodies
European 20th and 21st centuries history has shown progress in the right of women to decide on their bodies, on their sexuality. Nevertheless, serious obstacles still hinder those rights. Are we going backwards? Which are the challenges, today, and which are the possible solutions and reasons to hope?
For me the right to abortion is a good global thermometer of women's right to control their own bodies.
To speak from my point of view, in France, in August 2020 a law was introduced to extend the legal time limit from 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. This law was passed by the National Assembly but rejected by the Senate and finally passed in early 2022 after much heated debate.
It's legal but it's still a subject!
The impression I have is that the will to reinvest in decisions related to our bodies: contraception, abortion, childbirth, menstruation, menopause, masturbation, sexuality... is going beyond the militant framework and really entering the personal and family sphere. I see it with all the books, documentaries, Instagram accounts that are flourishing.
There are still a lot of political, medical, pharmaceutical barriers... but feminism is slowly invading all subjects and it's great to see!
In your graphic work, the female body (breasts, vagina, etc.) appears to be central. What reactions does this provoke in your readers? And with the people who take part in the workshops you run? Are there different reactions from different generations, for example?
I realised during my cancer experience that I didn't know my body. And I also discovered that many decisions were made without my knowledge, without really explaining them to me.
That's how I understood that taking possession of my body was about knowledge. That it was the only way to take back the power that was mine and to get out of medical infantilisation.
I met doctors, midwives and associations and asked lots of questions. Then I drew the vagina, the uterus, the clitoris, the bartholin glands, the urethral sponge and the skene glands... I visualised how all this interacted and integrated into my body (even if there is a difference between drawing the plans of a house and the way you live in it.)
I shared all this via a comic book and via the RS (it was more than 5 years ago, it was less widespread than today where we see more images of clitoris and vulva) and I got a lot of feedback.
My audience is very wide: from teenagers to older women. And there is still a lot of embarrassment about these subjects. That's why I use humour and drawing, it allows me to be less frontal ;)
What I notice, especially in IRL conferences, is that once the ice is broken, everyone is very interested and wants (and needs) to talk about these intimate topics.
My vagina tonic comic book is over 5 years old and I still get a lot of letters telling me how good it feels.