A brilliant celebration of female anatomy and information exhibition that debunked widely held myths.
Sex education is something that is a massive interest of mine and I am forever learning more and finding new channels of education relating to sex, bodies, and relationships. When scrolling through my Instagram feed I stumbled upon the Vagina Museum and was instantly intrigued as to what this place was and why hadn’t I heard about it before now? The Vagina Museum was a project conceived in 2017 that ran pop-ups around the UK but recently opened (November 2019) as the world’s first bricks and mortar museum. Its dedication is to the gynecological anatomy with the first exhibition opening 16th November 2019 and being called “Muff Busters: Vagina Myths and How to Fight Them.”
This exhibition was really eye-opening and one that is worth checking out, both for men and women. The statistics on show were shocking and demonstrated that though we might think many women are, many of us are not as in touch without gynecological anatomy as we should be! This comes from the stigma and taboo that surrounds much of the conversation around women’s anatomy and gynecological health leading to a lot of misinformation and thus many unrealistic ideals about our vulva and vaginal health. These unrealistic ideals led to a shocking number of women having labiaplasty surgery with an increase of 500% having this between 2002 and 2012 (on the NHS).
The myths included in this exhibition ranged from how we correctly talk and label our anatomy, the cleanliness of periods, how hygienic public hair is, and the truth about what the clitoris actually is. The amount of information given around all these myths was incredible with statistics demonstrating, in a tangible and coherent way, just how much (or little) many women know about their own anatomy. It was also eye-opening for many of the women, and men, that attended the exhibition and ensured that the correct information was being related and myths that we grow up being surrounded up are successfully debunked.
By hiding away from education surrounding gynecological anatomy, many do not know the basic information about something that affects 50% of the population. A survey of the British public demonstrated that the many could not describe the function or visibly identify the vagina (52%), the labia (47%), or the urethra (58%). When looking at this through a gendered lens it showed that 45% of women could not label the vagina, leading to a disconnect between our education and our own anatomy. This is something that could be detrimental as many women are lacking the understanding of their own bodies and therefore cannot understand when there are issues or concerns surrounding their gynecological anatomy.
Another reason that this exhibition was so insightful and informative is, that it has projected ideas such as virginity being a social construct, periods and vaginas not being dirty, and that pubic hair is something we should be loving and not hiding away from. These are all things that more women, particularly younger women, should know and would likely lead to less embarrassment surrounding our vulvas, periods, and our gynecological anatomy overall.
This is why the work that the Vagina Museum is doing by having such exhibitions and bringing the discourse around gynecological health and anatomy is so valuable. In opening up a space for correct, digestible and tangible information to be digested and projected more women will have the tools to understand such a crucial part of their bodies and hopefully less misinformation will be spread and the impossible and unrealistic ideals of what our bodies should look like will hold no weight, leading women to be proud of whatever their anatomy looks like.
The Vagina Museum hopes to build a dedicated permanent museum home for everything vagina and vulvas by 2030 and to continue holding two exhibitions a year at the current premises, as well as other events such as plays, music, comedy, and workshops. In the meantime, go and visit their space in Camden market and spread the word about such an amazing project. Do also open up conversations in your life around gynecological anatomy in an open, honest, and candid way to prevent the spread of misinformation and societally skewed ideas.