Health Vagina Sex Periods Std Feminism

The Vagina Museum

Every step taken towards women empowerment gives the impression of a step forward, yet, two steps backward. We live in a world where a female’s most important body part, her vagina is so awfully stigmatized. This is evident even in art history; prior to the 20th century, there were no paintings depicting the occasion of birth in western art. It was rather traditional, for artists to paint a virgin wherever a female was concerned. The male reproductive organ, on the other hand, has had a museum dedicated to it since the year 1997. This museum located in Reykjavík, Iceland has a collection of 280 specimens from 93 species of animals including whales, land mammals and allegedly, Huldufólk and trolls. One dedicated to its female counterpart has been long overdue. In 2017, Florence Schechter, a science communicator, and comedian was one of the first to take up the initiative. Following her discovery of the Migration Museum Project, Schechter followed in their footsteps and started creating pop-ups for the first two years. Later she was successful in a crowd-funding campaign, where the project raised about $65,000 that bought her a permanent home for the museum. It is because of Schechter, that today the world’s first brick and mortar museum on gynecological anatomy stands proud in the heart of the Camden Market, London.

The museum first opened its gates on 16th November 2019 with its first exhibit “Muff busters: Vagina Myths and how to fight them”. The exhibition included banners and posters incorporating the myths surrounding periods, sex and contraception. It had artwork representing the menstrual cycle, such as the glitter-covered tampons and cups. The museum’s underlying goal is to educate its visitors about cervical health and battle age-old myths; the likes of how the position of the woman during intercourse might disrupt her chances of getting pregnant.

In an interview with the magazine, ‘Evening Standard’, Sarah Creed, the curator talks about how women are ashamed of their gynecologic problems and do not seek medical attention as soon as they must, especially in cases of cervical cancer and other similar diseases. “Just under 50% of the world’s population has one. Most of us came into the world through one. Yet, vaginas and the rest of the gynecological anatomy are still a taboo subject,” a display at the museum reads. This museum’s ulterior motive is to bust a myth at a time. The coca-cola bottles draw one’s attention to the old wives’ tale of how douching with these could prevent pregnancy because of the acid it contains. This was a popular contraceptive method. Another interesting exhibit at the museum is a medical pathology textbook from India used to teach forensic science students, with a table showing the apparent characteristics of a “true virgin” and a “false virgin.” The museum has numerous multicolored placards with each myth busted in detail. One of the most common misconceptions is that if you use a tampon, you're no longer a virgin. The poster then continues into the scientific reasoning of how this isn’t possible. In their upcoming exhibition Periods: A brief history more such myths will be debunked. Schechter’s journey didn’t come forth without challenges; the response of the internet for an instance was grueling. The algorithms are set to assume that any content with the word “vagina” in it must be adult content. Hence, their advertisements got rejected and the emails were kicked into the spam folder. As for the online trolls, they dealt with them by getting in on the joke. One of their many ingenious ideas to de-stigmatize the vagina is by selling vagina-shaped pendants. Their souvenir shop also includes bold postcards, stickers, bookmarks a “Merry Clitmus” greeting card and literature concerning the organ among other things. The museum also holds events like quizzes and bingo nights all related to this beautiful organ.

As for the future, Schechter aims to build a permanent museum for the public which would contain a holistic exploration of the vagina, medically and historically. She views this as a long term project.

So, as we step into a new decade let us hope that at the end of this, the vagina would no longer remain the stranger that it has been.