The Body Shop has announced that it is creating its first show garden at RHS Chelsea this year. It’s called The Lady Garden, designed to pay homage to its “founding feminist principles and activist roots”.
All of the plants in the garden were chosen for their traditional use in the treatment of female health issues. Along with the garden features, the plants are being sourced locally to minimise their carbon footprint. When the show is over, the garden will be relocated to the Body Shop HQ in Sussex, to take up permanent residence among the existing biodiverse and bee-friendly landscaping.
Designer Jennifer Hirsch (Dip.Hort.Kew) has incorporated elements that symbolise the female body and women’s strength and support of each other. The aim is to promote discussion of social taboos and issues of female empowerment.
“Everything about the garden has been chosen for its ties to femininity, including the soft-scaping, majority of the artisan contributors, and even myself as a female botanist.”Jennifer Hirsch
This couldn’t be a more timely topic, as it is becoming increasingly evident that the world is currently designed for men, and that a lack of understanding of the female body is affecting women’s health. Social media abounds with men mansplaining to women the difference between the vulva and the vagina and getting it wrong. Gynaecologist Jen Gunter is on a mission to debunk the guff that comes out of Goop and educate women on how their body works. Women and girls in the UK suffer from period poverty. Around the world, regressive policies are restricting access to sex education, contraception and abortion because men think they have the right to dictate how women use their bodies.
So The Lady Garden gets a big thumbs up from me. As you can imagine, it isn’t universally acclaimed. There’s an article in the Daily Mail (which I will not grace with a link) that decries the design as erotic, sexist and offensive, and not in keeping with the genteel tone of the event.
“Call me old-fashioned, but I know the difference between men and women. I don’t need a genitalia garden to demonstrate it. I am a huge admirer of women and largely prefer their company to men. But if I were a woman I would be offended by this.Professor Stefan Buczacki, via the Daily Mail
It is pretty sexist. They don’t need a Chelsea garden to tell them they are unique and I don’t suppose there is going to be a male equivalent with a giant phallic symbol next door.”
Stefan, you’re old-fashioned, mate. Unlike you, I wouldn’t profess to speak for all women, but I, for one, am not offended by images of the female body. Having female friends (lucky you!) doesn’t immunise you against being sexist. And if you want to design and build a Chelsea garden around a giant phallus next year, then I’m sure we’d all love to see it.