The Vagina Revolution is ON!

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By Dr. Sherry Ross | Originally Published October 25th, 2016 on The Huffington Post

Vajaja, Kitty Cat, Cha Cha, Punani, Snatch, Juice Box, Muff, Red Sea

Have you ever wondered why we give our vagina’s a name?

One study of 1,000 women showed 65% said they were uncomfortable saying the words “vagina” and “vulva”, and 40% used “code names” referring to their vagina’s. Honestly, I find some of the nicknames harder to say than “the V word.”

As recent as 2012, a bill was presented on the House floor seeking to regulate the use of the word vagina after Michigan Representative Lisa Brown was banned from speaking because she used the term in a debate over an anti-abortion bill. Vagina-gate was born. Representative Mike Callton said, “Brown’s comment was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women…I would not say that in mixed company.”

Really? A ban would on a word that is, technically, a medical term, and which also, in a larger sense, defines women? If this isn’t a deliberate suppression of women, then I don’t know what is.

Aside from the fact that a little more than a 65% of all women are uncomfortable with the word vagina, a shocking 45% of women NEVER talk about their vaginal health with anyone, not even their doctor.

I realize, as an OBGYN, my patients represent the other 55% percent of women who do comfortably talk about their vaginas, at least behind the closed door of my examining room, but the fact that one in two women are not having this conversation is keeping me up nights.

The other sad truth is—aside from the fact that many women aren’t familiar with their own vaginas—a study of college students revealed that 62% were unable to locate their vagina correctly. The good news was 73% of these same women were able to find their clitoris! The bad news is 56% of men in this study were unable to identify the clitoris on a diagram. The truth is a lot of women don’t like their vaginas. 1 in 7 women have considered getting ”labial-plasty” which basically is trimming and tucking the lips of the vagina and tightening up the entrance. Many women admit that 1 in 5 compare themselves to those vagina’s seen in porn. That statistic makes me cringe!

Here’s a concept for you: You know the saying, “No two snowflakes are exactly alike?” Well, the expression could just as easily refer to vaginas. There is no one right way for a vagina to look, meaning, also, that there’s no such thing as a perfect one.

The labia, or lips—which vary from person to person—seem to be under the greatest scrutiny by my patients. Recently, a patient of mine tearfully confided in me that her boyfriend told her she had plus-size lips compared to others he’d seenonline, and that she really needed a more sexy-looking cooch. The fact is that the two lips of the vagina are not identical on the same person. Just as our two eyes are not identical, nor our ears or breasts, the lips of our labia are neither identical nor symmetrical. Likewise, a man’s testicles are neither identical nor symmetrical, but we don’t comment on how pretty a man’s balls are, do we? Maybe we should start a campaign like: When yours are perfect, you can comment on mine!

Shockingly, 50% of women wonder if their vagina is normal looking. You know what’s normal? Different is normal. Women are in search of the perfect vagina. The only qualities that make a vagina “perfect” are personal confidence and good health.

You know what else is normal? It’s normal for women to be curious about the wonders of the vagina—everything from its smell and taste to its care and maintenance; from the subject of masturbation, orgasm, female sexual dysfunction to gender equality in the bedroom!

The vagina revolution is a metaphor for women’s need to talk about their specific health care issues, issues that are so often ignored. There are very few places where women feel comfortable talking about their vaginas without feeling judged, so at the very least, a doctor’s office should be a bastion of comfort. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Sadly, the conversation with your doctor or health care provider probably goes something like this: Are you having any problems with your period? Any menopausal issues? Okay, great, now skootch down. In the blink of an eye the visit and conversation is over. Wham, Bam, thank you, Ma’am!

There are so many issues that women need to discuss about their healthcare that has nothing to do with pap smears, periods and yeast infections. Aside from the sensitive issues of painful sex, inability to have an orgasm, vaginal dryness with sex and vagina insecurity, there are the difficult subjects of depression, anxiety, and hormone imbalance.

All of this has led me to wonder why we’re so squeamish about the term vagina, and what we can do to reclaim the word and take back our bodies for our health, pleasure, and sense of personal power. I’m talking about an uprising here, ladies! I’m talking about empowering ourselves to talk about our vaginas amongst ourselves and with our healthcare providers.

Some call me the Vagina Activist or the Vagina Whisperer. Others call me outspoken. My kids call me embarrassing, but whatever the label I am here to empower you to talk about your bodies. I do have a vagina agenda. It includes taking control of your health and well-being and challenging yourself and others to change the narrative on our healthcare.

Maria Shriver said: ”Our realities and beliefs are shaped by many things—by our parents and our upbringing, by race and neighborhood, by media choices, by our own individual minds and experiences.”

Therefore, as friends, as leaders, as individuals, as mothers and daughters we must help to shape the conversation around vaginas.

So go ahead, call it whatever you want:

Hoo-Ha, Jewel Box, Happy Valley, La La, Love-Box, The Promised Land or even Pussy!

But here’s the core issue—we need to talk about vaginas.

It’s time to feel courageous—the Vagina Revolution has begun!

Viva La Revolucion!

Posted in: Let's Talk Women's Health

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