The Snatchel Project


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by The Snatchel Project
22 Sunday 22nd April 2012

To start off, could you tell us more about your personal role in the Government Free VJJ project? How did you, Susan and Annie set it up?

Susan and I have been working together on other projects for a year or two. And Annie and I have known each other through our knitting work for several years. The project started with a Twitter conversation where we were complaining about recent political trends and anti-woman bills that were being introduced. I mentioned the idea that we could send representatives a knitted uterus with a note that said, "Hands off my uterus. Here's one of your own," and the idea just took off from there.

How did you decide on combining humour, knitting and politics?

I didn't - it just happened. In fact, I wasn't thinking of this as a humorous project until Annie noted how funny it could be. I think comedians have an opportunity to address issues that often can't be discussed in a more serious context, so I like the idea of this being humorous but I made my original comments on Twitter because I was very angry.

One of the slightly angrier submissions

Why do you think it's important for a concept like Government Free VJJ to exist?

I think it helps raise awareness about what is happening in government in a time when many people are turned off by negative advertising and loud-mouth media pundits. It also gives people, especially women, a chance to have their voices heard, and encourages many women who might not otherwise speak out or write to their representatives to get involved.

When you first started it, what were your hopes for the project?

I'd really like to see thousands of hand-crafted uteri littering the House floor. But seriously, I think because this is an unusual project, it can attract media attention and perhaps let some representatives who don't support equality for women and who don't recognize the importance of women's health issues to either come to their senses or get voted out of office.

A hand-stiched vulva ready to be sent off to Congress

Which policies and congressional decisions motivated Govt Free VJJ? Over in England we often don't hear about the ins and outs of US reproductive health discourse.

Oh my goodness, there's everything from whittling away at abortion rights, to bills which make contraception harder to obtain. There's even one bill in Arizona that is trying to give employers the right to deny contraception health coverage to women.

That's ridiculous. Have you received any reactions from senators or congressmen so far? And why the choice to only target males (even when women may have been complicit in the decision-making process too)?

Not yet. We are targeting males primarily because I feel that if you don't have a uterus, you shouldn't be trying to regulate what those of us who have one do with ours. But some participants are sending uteri to their female representatives as well.

A nicely labelled uterus with its accompanying letter

Finally, why the choice to be politically neutral? Do you think such a stance can really exist when it comes to public health?

I used to be a born-again Christian and involved in very conservative churches but I never was politically conservative. I know there are many women who may vote Republican or who belong to conservative communities who might not be comfortable speaking out about these issues, but who use contraception and who have even had abortions. I want all women who believe that it is not the government's business to regulate what happens in the bedroom, or to make important health and family-planning decisions for individuals.

Learn more about the Snatchel Project on their site and check out some of the other submissions on their Flickr page.

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