Experts shed light ‘down there’
In an educational event aimed at bringing awareness to the vulva, that elusive female part of the body, a movie was screened, two vulva puppets dueled, frank discussions were had and attendees took part in crafting vulvas out of paper.
UH’s Women’s Resource Center hosted “Viva La Vulva” in the Pacific Room of the University Center on Tuesday. The event included free food, crafts, and an insightful discussion after watching the film “Petals: Journey into Self-Discovery.”
Director of UH’s Women’s Resource Center Beverly McPhail and Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Meryl Cohen opened the event with the dueling vulva puppets.
During the duel, McPhail and Cohen emphasized how each vulva is different and Cohen gave the audience a “Vulva 101,” in which she pointed out its different parts and how, contrary to popular belief, the vulva is not the vagina.
As a pamphlet from Planned Parenthood read, “The vulva is the whole female genital ‘package’ — labia, clitoris, vagina, and the opening to the urethra. This part of (a woman’s) anatomy gets called lots of funny names — coochie, woo-woo, ‘down there’ — and it’s sometimes confused with the vagina.”
Cohen and McPhail talked about how a lot of women are often afraid that their vulvas are deformed or that they have been stretched out, which can make them embarrassed of their body.
“Petals: Journey into Self-Discovery” opened with a monologue by Nick Karras, a photographer whose work — a collection of photographs of the vulva — is featured in the film. Karras compared the vulva to a flower.
“‘Petals is about the most powerful part of the female anatomy,” Karras said.
His subjects also noted that they began to see a resemblance with their vulvas to a tulip or a lily, and that realization helped them feel more comfortable with themselves.
Karras said he began his project after recognizing that many women are uncomfortable with their bodies and feel a sense of shame in regard to their vulva. He said that he began his collection of photographs to show the beauty in the vulva that is often under-appreciated.
“If there’s a negative self-image about the vulva there’s usually a negative self-image somewhere else,” Karras said.
The video also highlighted negative trends that have become common including labia surgery to tighten the vulva up, emotional problems that women have with their vulva and misinformation like douching being healthy, when in reality it makes things worse.
“The vagina is cleaner than the mouth,” Cohen said.
The main message of “Viva La Vulva” was to show the diversity of the human body and for both women and men to embrace their enigmatic parts.
“That’s one thing that’s so great about sex: You can’t be an expert, (you will) always be learning,” Cohen said.
Cohen underlined the importance of never comparing your body to others and more specifically, to never assume that something is wrong with your vulva because of how it looks.
“Everyone is different and everyone feels things differently,” she said. “No two women are the same.”