Byline: AR
Story by AR

The word Vagina...

Cringe or celebrate??

Why is it, if you mention the word vagina within a conversation about our personal body parts do people cringe, wince or pull that shocked looking facial expression?
What is it about the word Vagina that causes these reactions?

I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar regarding this very topic.
The use of the word vagina is cultivated around shame. Over the decades, women have called their vagina everything else but it’s actual medical name. Also, few women including me, actually knew its Latin translation - vagina means ‘Sheath or Scabbard for a sword’.

If you ask your female friends what other words, they call their vagina or were raised to say as a female child, you’ll probably laugh your head off because of the sheer foolishness of how it sounds. These are just a few of the names banded about: noo noo, porky, minky, fanny, vajayjay, hoo ha and there are a lot more ridiculous names but I won’t bore you.

My question is why are we as women, not proud to own the word vagina, considering we’ve come so far in our feminine history. Is it not our duty as women, to not shame each other when we use the word vagina? I was actually told off by the elder women in my family, for teaching my daughter (who is now an adult) to use the official terminology when she was a wee child. I had a stand-up row and said, I am not going to teach my child to use foolish names to describe her body parts; when she’ll only have to be re-educated when she’s older, so she might as well learn them now. I was scorned upon for being so liberal. Was I being too liberal or just owning the name for what it was a part of the ‘anatomy’?
I didn’t want my daughter feeling embarrassed to call her body parts by their anatomical name. As that would have meant she would have felt shame or revulsion when visiting the doctors, regarding any gynaecological problems.

Unfortunately, women are still afraid to stand up and use the word vagina to describe their genitalia when discussing it with their doctor or practice nurse.
This is something that needs to be tackled to ensure our younger females do not pass on the shame and disgrace to their own female children.
We as women should feel empowered to know our vaginas in depth, and to pass this forward. We as women should be able to talk about it openly, (without the slut shaming) because we will have a common factor.

Our Vaginas need to be cared for, just as we would with our hair and nails. You ask a woman how to look after her nails and she can tell you a multitude of tips. However, this is not necessarily the case when it comes to the vagina.
Taking care of your vagina by looking at it (know what your vagina looks like), checking it, cleaning it, is just as important as our nails and hair.

So why do so many women fail to go for that all important smear test, which is essential to the well-being of our health and vagina. Women taking their smear tests is at an all-time low within the last 20years, again why is this? Is it because we feel we don’t have to or it’s to shameful to show a physician or nurse our vagina, in case they judge us..
That’s their job to inform you about your vagina, it’s also your duty to yourself and your loved ones to check your vagina’s health. For not having a smear test and leaving abnormal cells undetected can result in ovarian cancer, which is much more difficult to treat, than a few abnormal cells.

We as women should talk to other women openly to share our experiences about smear tests, the results and how to look after our vaginas because that’s the only way, we will stop shaming each other but empower us to reclaim the word vagina.

A few tip bits to looking after your vagina

• Use only water to wash your vagina (to keep the PH balance)
• Do not use exfoliating sticks, as you are removing your vagina’s natural bacteria
• Do not use fem fresh or deodorants as you will cause a PH imbalance
• Taking probiotics is a great way to stave off bacterial vaginosis, which can go undetected
• Look at your vagina often to notice any changes
• Steaming your vagina, there is no scientific proof that it actually works
• If you suffer constant heavy bleeding, ensure you see your GP immediately
• Always attend your smear test appointments (take a girlfriend if nervous)
• Do not believe ‘old wives’ tales about your vagina
• If in doubt about your vagina, seek medical advisement

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