In Praise of The Vulva

Why do so many women express shame
and embarrassment about their vulvas?

They’re willing to use ‘penis’ in casual
conversation, but hesitate to say vulva
or clitoris, often using childish terms
or ‘down there’ instead.

When I asked them why they didn’t feel comfortable
even mentioning the words for their own body parts,
the answer was usually a long thoughtful pause and
then ‘I don’t know why. It just seems wrong to say it.’

As a child, I wasn’t taught the proper words for my genitals.
I’m impressed by the mothering skills of a friend, a new mother,
who taught her baby daughter the word “vagina” as soon as she
became aware of that part of her body.

It feels almost as though there has been a
Disneyfication of female genitalia in pop culture.

When we aren’t pretending that they don’t exist,
we refer to our genitals as “ladybits” or the awful
“vajayjays” (thanks but no thanks, Oprah).

Hilde Atalanta, a Dutch illustrator and the creator of The Vulva Gallery,
started the educational programme to celebrate a part of our bodies that
can be as unique as our fingerprints.

The artist began the project on Instagram to make it as accessible
as possible hoping that their illustrations of vulvas might inspire
people to start more open conversations about their sexual health.

“I noticed that there aren’t many people who speak openly about
genital diversity,” they explain. “I realised that visibility of
diversity might actually be helpful to more people showing a wide
range of representations of vulvas, thereby opening up conversation
and showing that diversity is good and important.”

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