Artist and activist Joanne Tremarco’s Clitletoe Christmas decoration carries an important message about female genital mutilation (FGM) and female sexuality. We spoke to Joanne to find out more about Clitletoe and why she’s supporting Savera UK this year by encouraging those who purchase the decoration to also make a donation.
“I consider myself to be a body positive, sex positive artist and activist, and Clitletoe is part of this body of my work.
Twenty years ago when I was an undergraduate reading up on feminist theory, I was clued up on the performance of gender and the personal as political – but no one ever spoke to me about female genital mutilation (FGM). Back then the movement against harmful practices wasn’t in the mainstream.
In fact no one had ever told me what my clitoris was. For a while, when I was a young teenager who had discovered her clitoris, I wondered whether I was intersex and that my clitoris was the starting of a penis. Imagine that vat that, at that age in the 1990’s., I was aware that some people were intersex – but didn’t know what a clitoris was?
I had heard the term ‘female circumcision’ used and wondered what the equivalent of a foreskin was for women. So I began to research and I came across the wonderful book by Waris Dirie about her personal experience of having a cliterectomy. I was moved to tears and I both wanted to tell everybody about what I had discovered but also didn’t want it to be real. I was 18 and wanted to fit in at college and I was always ‘bringing people down’ with the tragic stories I shared.
Clitletoe became my way of creating a playful object that could be found in day-to-day settings and can be used to provoke and anchor difficult conversations – like the ones I wanted to have as well as promote good healthy fun.
For eight years I have been touring an improvised theatre show called Women Who W*nk, in which I have been describing to people the shape and wonder of the clitoris being the only organ in a human body designed for pleasure alone. In November 2016 I was sat in a Sensual Secrets workshop led by Sarah Rose Bright and I saw her 3D Model of the clitoris and I just kept seeing its likeness to mistletoe and so it began.
I have been making and selling Clitletoe for five years now, the fact that these decorations can go undetected on any household Christmas tree and then when the time is right be used as a tool for education appeals to me. I receive many messages from customers telling me about how the clitoris is a normal part of their children’s understanding of anatomy as a result of their purchase.
It has been such an honour to work with Savera UK’s young people project over the last two years, to meet survivors and be around young people who are passionate about creating change.
I’d really encourage you to support Savera UK’s work by donating when you purchase a Clitletoe ornament, signing up to their newsletter and tagging them in your Clitletoe photos on social media with the hashtag #StopFGM.”