This week, the media and the public alike were up in arms about this guy, who tweeted about how women should stop protesting against the tampon tax, and instead learn to “control their bladders”, as he seemed to think having a period was the same as having a wee.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement that this guy was a complete tool, and even though this was a somewhat hilarious and exaggerated example, I can’t help but be reminded by the amount of times I’ve noted a similar complete lack of understanding about the female body.
Remember when it all kicked off on Big Brother because Stephanie Davis had the audacity to have a normal, functioning vagina? John Maloney, Chris Partridge, and Darren Day went rummaging through her dirty laundry (and she’s the disgusting one?), and remarked that her dirty knickers “looked like pigeon sh*t”. They completely humiliated her on national television, because they obviously didn’t get the memo that that’s how vaginas work.
But it’s not just men. Earlier this year, girls on Twitter started the “#pantychallenge” with a similar message. The aim was to basically take a picture of your completely dry underwear and show it off as if that’s something to be proud of, and not seriously concerning. In case anyone didn’t already know – vaginal discharge is completely normal. That’s supposed to happen. Your pants are supposed to look like that after you’ve been wearing them all day. The vagina is a self cleaning organ, which also means you don’t need to put any soap or cleaning stuff on it, or spray any water up there. It cleans itself – that’s what all the discharge is. Just let it be. And, you know, change your pants regularly, obvs.
Aside from this, there’s a whole host of other myths that both men and women alike still believe to be true. For more info on that, check out this article I wrote for The Tab earlier in the year.
The thing is, as a society, there is so much we don’t know about the female body. SO much. Men seem to know absolutely nothing about how periods work, and we all seem to think that vaginas somehow have the ability to stretch. And it’s not like none of this stuff has been discovered, it has. We just have some kind of reluctance to share the information.
Women’s bodies are still a taboo subject, shrouded in mystery because people are too ashamed to talk about them. Seriously, it’s not the Victorian times anymore. Let’s just admit things for what they are. We need to encourage a more open dialogue about these issues, because otherwise harmful myths will continue to be spread.
The first thing we need to do is seriously step up sex education. I don’t know if things have changed since my day, but just the fundamental basics in primary school was done all wrong. The thing that sticks most in my mind was that they separated the boys and girls for some of it. Of course, we know everything about the boy stuff: about erections and wet dreams etc., because boys were allowed to freely discuss these sorts of things in the playground. Because they weren’t taught to be ashamed of their bodies.
But did the guys ever find out what we did? No. And that’s clearly evident when you see nineteen year olds (who supposedly have girlfriends!) tweeting about how periods are the same as doing a wee. When you hear people talking about “how loose her vagina must be”. When you see women being shamed for completely normal vaginal discharge. When you hear guys saying “she lied about being a virgin cos she didn’t bleed”.
We as a society are afraid to talk about women’s bodies, but it’s about time we faced that fear, to put an end to the harmful assumptions.