It was a typical Monday morning at AS&K. I’d only been copywriting for a few months, mainly writing about neurology and dermatology. But on that morning, a meteor entered my atmosphere: a writing project, for a client, all about… the vagina.
Yes, you read that right, and don’t worry, I too also almost choked on my scone. We had been tasked with creating an internal-use online resource to cover everything you possibly (literally) need to know about the vagina. It was to consist of 25 topics and over 140 subtopics, written by our Consumer Health Writing Team, upheld and propelled forward by our Accounts Team, and woven into a beautiful SharePoint scarf thanks to our Digital Team.
My Google history has had a good old giggle since we started. I soon became accustomed to targeted ads for fancy foil-packaged, flavored, latex-free condoms while simultaneously being sent top tips on how to best deal with the menopause. However, as my knowledge of the female genitalia grew, my posture worsened, as I found myself cowering over my laptop in an attempt to hide the screen. Then one day, I thought …
Hold on, why am I so embarrassed? Isn’t the whole point of this resource to be liberating, to help alleviate some of the stigma around this subject? Could this be the quintessence of hypocrisy?
I think the pink-faced prude would come out in most of us should we find ourselves sitting in a cafe in central London writing about STDs and sourcing images of sex toys. But I had felt this way looking at medical diagrams of female sexual anatomy.
So let me explain why this is such a problem and why the day we stop pussyfooting around the subject of gynecology, the world will become a much better place.
First, eradicating vagina stigma will help women make better, more informed choices. They won’t need to cringe when asking for a pack of clotrimazole in their local pharmacy or smuggle boxes of tampons to their cars like shoplifters. It’s important to remember that language has immeasurable power, and women still often feel embarrassed to utter the words ‘vagina’, ‘vulva’, ‘labia’, or the hellion word that is ‘clitoris’.
By eradicating shame surrounding these words, the associated subjects become more normalized. Women will be more likely to talk to one another if struggling with an issue, and support each other if going through, say, a life change, like menopause.
As Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Lessening the embarrassment felt when discussing the vagina and related topics will make education less uncomfortable. Teaching women about their bodies will help them know what signs to look for before things get serious. They will be more likely to seek advice from their HCP rather than hide in their bathroom with, say, a horrid case of cystitis that could lead to pyelonephritis.
With alleviation of embarrassment surrounding female genitalia will come the same for their functions. And perhaps the 500 million women currently suffering from period poverty could finally be free of the shame they feel as a result the prejudicial connotations that society has imposed upon the subject of menstruation.
Scrapping shame also results in amelioration of self-esteem. Women will feel more confident and more empowered to stand their ground if, for instance, someone tries to make them feel ashamed of their genitalia.
In summary, it makes no sense to feel embarrassed about a body part that humankind quite literally depends on. So, let’s celebrate the vagina in all its wonder, taking us that little bit closer to being a more honest, accepting and empathetic society.
Finally, as supplied by Glamour UK, a suitable-for-work-version of your very own “Vagina Playlist” to boost your vagina confidence. Enjoy!
- “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper
- “Work It” by Missy Elliot
- “Body of My Own” by Charli XCX
- “Love Myself” by Hailie Steinfeld
- “I Can’t” by Foxy Brown
Viva la vagina!
If you are interested in how AS&K can help with your Women's Health communications strategy for healthcare professionals or patients please contact Alana Zdinak for a consultation today at email@example.com