In the era of wacky feminine hygiene treatments like Goop jade eggs and Kardashian-flogged vagina cleaners, misinformation about vaginas has never been more widespread. Even in 2019, the stigma, shame and myths attached to women's sexual and reproductive organs haven't gone anywhere. But the Vagina Museum in London is hoping to change that, one exhibition and crocheted clitoris at a time.
Founder Florence Schechter launched a crowdfunding campaign in March to raise funding for the world's first bricks and mortar museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy. After its first exhibition at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, the Vagina Museum travelled across the UK as a pop-up museum, generating a huge buzz at every stop. Schechter has since been offered a permanent space in Camden Market in North London and raised the necessary £300,000 to get the museum up and running by November, through a crowdfunding campaign.
When Schechter discovered that there's a museum dedicated to penises and penile parts at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, but no vagina museum anywhere in the world, she thought it seemed "pretty unfair" and set about introducing one herself.
"There's only one way to see change in the world and that's to do it yourself," Schechter told Lonely Planet Travel News. "What I hope people will get from the museum is that vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy are nothing to be ashamed of. They are amazing and do wonderful things. The main goal of the museum is to de-stigmatise this part of the body."
The museum will focus on breaking the stigma and shame surrounding women's sexuality with exhibitions covering everything from anatomy and society to periods and sex. According to research gathered by the campaign from the Eve Appeal “65% of 16-25-year-olds struggle to use the words vagina or vulva and more than one in ten of 16-35-year-olds said they found it difficult to talk to their GPs about gynaecological health concerns."
The Vagina Museum hopes to have a packed events programme that will include talks, panels, workshops, classes and comedy nights, as well as an outreach programme that will collaborate with medical professionals to provide better services to support the trans and intersex communities. It also aims to highlight important issues affecting women such as consent, body image and intersectionality. There's also a gift shop selling crochet clitorises, pussy pendants and 'vaginas are normal' stickers and tote bags.
Dr Alison Wright, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, praised the museum as a “huge asset" in terms of progressing conversations around women's health.
The Vagina Museum is set to open on 16 November, 2019 and you can stay up-to-date on events here.