German ‘Lady*fest’ declares clitoris ‘exclusionary’


Lady*fest, a feminist festival scheduled to take place June 22nd – 25th in Heidelberg, Germany, has declared the clitoris “exclusionary.”

The festival, which features workshops, lectures, and art, had initially planned to include topics like, “clitoris/glitzoris” and “masturbation” as part of their art exhibition, but protocol documents from the last planning meeting now explain that the clitoris is “problematic,” because it refers to female anatomy.

The festival organizers have stated that, due to being a “queer Lady*fest,” it shouldn’t empower “only certain groups,” such as those with clitorises, and that the festival will not be “excluding any groups” by referencing female anatomy. Lady*fest claims these actions embody their policy, which translates to, “be tender to all genders,” and that being mindful of how female anatomy offends people will provide “a safer space to all human beings by applying awareness.”

Naida Pintul, a radical feminist and former organizer of Lady*fest who lives in Heidelberg, is critical of the decision. She told me via email, “Female anatomy has become a taboo.”

“This is a postmodern version of the same old hatred of female bodies and their biology. Once again, we are not supposed to talk about the reality and the consequences of having our female reproductive organs.”

Initially, the decorating of “vulva cupcakes” was planned as an activity to celebrate and destigmatize female anatomy. This event was also cancelled by festival planners on account of vulva cupcakes not being “inclusive” of everyone’s identity.

“Maybe vulvas and vaginas would be seen as less disgusting/offensive if we called them non-penises,” Pintul quipped.

Similarly, Scripps College was compelled to shut down their “project vulva” last year, an event that invited women to decorate cupcakes to resemble vulvas, as the cupcakes were deemed “violent to transwomen.”

Lady*fest is now considering having “gender star” (*) cupcakes available to replace the vulva cupcakes. (A “gender star” refers to an asterisk placed after gendered words in order to convey that the category includes anyone who identifies with it.)

Lady*Fest itself uses an asterisk in its official name. But, under the circumstances, the asterisk doesn’t feel all that inclusive. Rather, it feels more like a disclaimer that reads: “Lady*Fest (*Not actually for ladies with gross, offensive vulvas and clitorises).”

Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.