Why Vulva Liberation Week?

All over the world, people talk about male genitalia all the time. They use male genital words continually, and metaphorically: balls! cock! dickhead! bollocks! People freely discuss whether a building, or a gadget, or a natural formation is phallic. People talk all the time about penis envy, penis extensions – “everyone knows he’s only got a flash car / scary dog / whatever because he’s insecure about his willy” – “I haven’t got the balls for this job” – “you know what they say about men with big feet!” There are frequent health messages about male cancers that affect the testicles or the penis.

It goes on all around us, all the time. It’s OK to talk about male genitalia. It’s fine.

Yet when mummies chat about what they call their babies’ “bits” there are loads of good words for boys, and none for girls. Boys can have a willy, a pipi, or a winkle, for example. What about girls? There just aren’t any good words, and you end up with something that sounds either hopelessly romanticised, horribly medical, or downright coarse.

Yet, while we hear a little about ovarian or uterine cancers and we are inundated with health messages about breast cancer, I have never yet heard a health message that mentioned the vulva.

Yet when I recently went into a bookshop and asked the shop assistants (one male, one female, standing together at the service desk) whether they had a copy of The Vagina Monologues, and if so, where I could find it, my friend didn’t know where to put herself.

“You can’t say that word out loud! You’re so embarassing!”

We are so embarassed by this crucial part of our body that we cannot even talk about it, we cannot even name it. We cannot think about it. We pretend it isn’t there or, if we have to deal with it, we do so at arms length and with, at best, a slight feeling of distaste. We don’t look. We only touch it we have to.

I myself once felt the same way, until I discovered the word VULVA.

I had known this word before but, like many women, I was pretty hazy about female genital anatomy, and I didn’t really know what it meant. Nor did it occur to me to find out. And then, I did find out – almost by accident. And you would not believe how empowering a discovery this was. To be able to name this secret, uncharted part of my body – “vulva! vulva! oh, my vulva!” suddenly made me feel thoroughly excited and uplifted. Yay vulva!

It occurred to me recently that there are probably loads of women out there who are in the same position that I used to be in. They are a bit hazy about their anatomy down there, they aren’t really interested in or curious about it, they find the whole thing rather embarassing and somewhat distasteful… Is that you? It used to be me!

So I want to stand up proudly and shout from the rooftops: Viva la Vulva! Vulva Liberation!