Ever heard the term ‘designer vagina’? This generally refers to a certain type of cosmetic surgery, not to the vagina itself but to the ‘inner lips’ (or labia minora) of the vulva. Surgery here involves removing tissue from and reshaping the appearance of the labia minora- in other words to ‘trim’ it. Many people with vulvas have a labia minora that protrudes so that it appears visible – therefore however large this is it is likely to be ‘normal’. Additionally, in young people biological changes occur during puberty that can change the appearance of the inner labia. For this reason it is often recommended by the NHS that those under 18 do not get this type of surgery. However, there seem to cases of children having labiaplasties. According to one report over 200 people received labiaplasty procedures funded by the NHS in 2015-2016. We know that people with visible labia are more likely to think that their genitals look ‘abnormal’ than those without, even though both are equally common (Lykkebo et al, 2017). Some accounts have blamed this on the prevalence of seeing only vulva with neat and invisible labia minora. Whatever the cause, the desire to have this type of surgery seems increasingly common with a 45% rise seen in labiaplasty numbers worldwide between 2015 and 2016.
Womb carrying folks usually start menstruation (i.e. regular periods) before the age of 16 years*. I was much older than this when I began to accurately understand what my anatomy ‘down there’ was like. I think I had a conception of tampons being a cross between a plug and a sponge. I guess this isn’t completely wrong, but neither is it completely right as the bleeding’s coming from the cervix, with a vagina being a passage way.
I’ve come across a fair few people who have an aversion to using tampons, partly because they are not confident (or downright uncomfortable) with their anatomy and with the idea of placing something in to their vagina. Even amongst some of my liberated friends, I am considered a bit of a fringe eccentric for using a mooncup – something I’ve done of the last few years. About the size of an egg cup and made from soft silicone, it sits in the vagina, just below the cervix and catches blood. It can then be washed, without contributing plastic to the bin or cotton to sewage waste.
n.b. I’ve recently discovered that ‘mooncup’ is just one of many other brands. This has somewhat blown my mind.
*Lawrence and Impey (2012) Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 4th Ed.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the UK’s ‘Representation of the People Act’, which gave (some) women (over 30 and living in their own home) the right to vote. It also extended the franchise to a wider group of men.
Now in the UK, any woman over the age of 18 has the right to vote. We have a female head of state and Prime Minister. However, we also live in a country where women are under-represented in most other positions of power. This ranges from parliament to the boardroom. There is also growing recognition that gender equality is a wider issue and that the efforts of privileged white women is only part of the story, even if it is acknowledged as important. Let’s remember and celebrate that things got better 100 years ago, but not forget that we still have a way to go.
In just over a week, I’m sitting a professional exam. I’ve been spending most of my doodling time on that, so here’s a scribble from the margins:
Uterine fibroids are growths in the tissue of the uterus (womb). They can be quite common, particularly with increasing age, and can cause pain and per vagina bleeding. Fibroids: probably not your friend.
Condoms – simple barriers used as contraception. Originally made out of the insides of animals (mmmm, sexy). They’ve come a long way though, and a recent article in the Guardian describes some of the changes that are currently going on – from rebranding to innovations in the actual way that they are constructed. As a barrier form of contraception, they are also one of the few methods that protect against STIs.
Do you remember learning about reproduction as a child?
I’ve got two pieces on show as part of the ‘Fabrications’ exhibition at The Mill in Walthamstow, East London. We were challenged to use fabric in novel or tradition ways.
I’ve gone for two needlework pieces- a past time often seen as very ‘feminine’. I’ve used it to depict quotes from two very revolutionary women, both of whom were activists who embraced radical, anti-establishment notions.
Member of the Black Panthers and FBI fugitive.