Don't Apologise For Your Vagina, Says Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist

A Facebook post is reminding women that vulvas come in all sizes, shapes, and smells.
An empowering message about vulvas is getting a lot of attention, which was helped by art by The Vulva Gallery.
Instagram/The Vulva Gallery
An empowering message about vulvas is getting a lot of attention, which was helped by art by The Vulva Gallery.

The vulva and vagina don’t have the easiest go of things.

They’re bombarded with messages that female genitalia should smell and look a certain way (fruity, hairless, and petite, preferably). Then, many people push babies through them. Then, many of those people visit pelvic floor physiotherapists, because pushing that baby out has left them in pain, or with incontinence issues, or unable to wear pants because of some combo of those first two things.

So, please, mums, when you let a health professional take a look under the hood, can you stop apologising on behalf of your vulva? That’s the message pelvic floor physiotherapist Kristin Phillips is spreading in a viral Facebook post about how heartbroken she is that so many of her clients apologise.

“In my practice, I do see a lot of new mums. And old mums. And women who aren’t mums. And so many apologise for the state of the vulva, usually mentioning that they haven’t had time to shave or wax, before I even start the exam,” Phillips told HuffPost Canada.

“It makes me sad because I understand the undue pressure they feel to appear a certain way,” she added.

Phillips said she reminds everyone who apologises that all vulvas look differently and have their own normal odour.

“And especially for the new mums, I remind them how magnificent and amazing their vaginas and bodies are — they just grew a baby and brought it into the world!” Phillips said.

Her Facebook post has gotten a lot of attention, both for its empowering message and the accompanying artwork by Amsterdam-based artist Hilde Atalanta of The Vulva Gallery.

The image shows vulvas in all shapes, sizes, and hairiness, and is part of the Vulva Gallery’s mandate to celebrate vulva diversity.

“All vulvas are unique — just like our hands, noses and eyes are. However, there’s usually just one kind of vulva shape being displayed in popular media,” Atalanta explains on her website.

“Whether it is in magazines, mainstream porn, or even biology books, all over the world we are constantly confronted with a distorted image of the ‘perfect’ vulva, presented as ‘normal.’”

In her post, Phillips explains that she sees “a lot of external genitalia in a day.” And she gets why so many women feel the need to apologise.

“Everywhere you turn, there is advertising for body hair removal or a cream, supplement, or douche that will make your vagina smell like a midnight moon or fairy sprinkles,” she wrote.

“Well, guess what, vaginas are supposed to smell like vaginas, not rainbows and unicorns, and hair grows on the vulva naturally.”

Once again, for those in the back: there is no ‘normal’ vulva.

Sadly, this message reminding women that their genitals are normal is one that bears repeating by necessity. In January, a midwife’s post on reddit went viral after she told pregnant women to please stop worrying about shaving their pubic hair.

“We don’t even notice as long as you have showered in the last week,” she wrote. “As long as the baby can come out, we don’t care if you’re full bush, bald as a baby, or something exciting like a lightening bolt/vajazzled. I don’t even notice any more.”

And Canadian-born, internet famous OB-GYN Dr. Jennifer Gunter has been normalising the vulva and debunking myths about women’s health for years.

In one particularly heated post, she questioned the need for vanilla-scented oral sex underwear for women, which, somehow, do exist.

“It’s a vagina, not a Yankee Candle,” Gunter wrote in her popular blog.