What's in Your Vagina?

Fascinating report on vaginosis, a condition that can occur in women when the microbial ecosystem in the vagina becomes imbalanced.

Vaginosis increases the risk of contracting secondary infections, from herpes to HIV. But even on its own, the microbial shift may prompt low-grade inflammation that can derail reproduction. It can prevent fertilization in would-be mothers, prompt spontaneous abortion in pregnant women, and increase the risk of preterm birth later in pregnancy.

Do yourself—or the women in your life—a favor and take 10 minutes to read this.

"I Reject the Notion That My Virtue Is Located in My Vagina"

Trigger Warning for Rape

An Indian woman who was gang-raped in 1980 attacks a still-prevalent notion:

Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored.

I recommend reading the article she wrote at the age of 20, three years after her rape. The link is in the first paragraph.

Via Feministing.

"Two-Finger" Test for Rape Needs to End

Tom Wright at The Wall Street Journal’s India Realtime blog addresses several components of the country’s ongoing rape culture, including the above-mentioned “two-finger test”:

In the test, which appears in Indian jurisprudence textbooks and is admissible in court, a doctor inserts two fingers into a women’s vagina to determine its laxity and whether the hymen is broken, signaling previous sexual activity.

The test perpetuates stereotypes of rape survivors as loose women and often is used by defense counsels to achieve acquittals, human-rights groups say.

In case you missed it when I linked to it a couple months ago, here’s Scarleteen’s post on the vaginal corona, which should tell you all you need to know about why the “two-finger test” makes absolutely no sense.

Via The Atlantic Wire.

The Censorship of "Mean Girls"

Ramou Sarr of Hello Giggles watched Mean Girls on MTV and was displeased to discover that the channel had bleeped out the words “homosexual”, “gay”, “lesbian”, and “vagina”.

It was particularly interesting that in a movie whose message was about the problematic ways in which young women behave towards one another, “lesbian” and “vagina” were censored, but “whore” and “slut” were not. This is sending an incredibly complicated message to viewers. We’re encouraged to not use words like “homosexual,” even if we self-identify that way, and to be ashamed to call our vaginas vaginas, but you’ve got free rein to call girls sluts and whores, folks!

I’m especially baffled by the removal of “homosexual”, which has come to be a fairly clinical word now that self-identified homosexuals prefer to call themselves “gay”.

New Zealand Deems Clinically Accurate Terms for Body Parts Acceptable for TV

Despite receiving complaints from viewers outraged that an advertisement would refer to a woman’s vagina as a “vagina”, New Zealand’s Advertising Standards Authority has decided that this commercial for Carefree Acti-Fresh Panty Liners does not violate their code.

Who knows whether viewers would have been as disgusted if the body part in question had been a penis (sometimes referred to as a “penis”). Beyond sexism, this incident illustrates the irrational discomfort Westerners feel with our own sexuality. When even the non-sexual functions of our sexual organs illicit such prudish reactions, we must admit we have a very real problem.

More optimistically, though, the Carefree ad (the first to actually use the words “vagina” and “discharge” together, and possibly the first to even say “vagina”) came in response to research by the company showing women wanted advertisers to stop using euphemisms for the vagina. Maybe women (or people in general) are tiring of the body-shaming that words like “hoo-ha” and “coochie” subtly reinforce.

Why Bizarre Female Cycling Bans Persist

I’ve never even heard of this sort of thing. As serious as I believe the underlying misogyny is, I had to laugh at some of the archaic beliefs Amy Tennery outlines. I don’t want to ruin the fun, but here’s a taste:

Ayatollah Elm Alhuda argued that Iranian women should only bike in their backyards. “It is not a sign for a woman to sit on a bicycle saddle, provided she does so indoors or in her backyard. But if she cycles in public,” he said, according to Mohabat News. “Her movements and posture will lead to corruption and prostitution.”