I know I must already have your attention with the title of this article alone. A technique this museum uses to advertise their mission of educating the world on gynecological anatomy issues and breaking down stigmas. By forcefully, and tastefully, presenting vaginas and all that goes along with them in humorous and artistic ways the organisation is able to discourage the idea that vaginas should be enjoyed but not discussed.
The other day I booked a ticket and went over to Camden to the Vagina Museum. I can’t lie, the first time I had heard of the place was on TikTok: the main source of reliable information for our generation, of course. Upon entering the building I did expect the exhibit to be much larger, instead it consisted of one large long room, split into half exhibit, half gift shop. However, the size does not change the gravity of the information provided. Set up in a circle where various poster boards are packed with information regarding the menstrual cycle, and how this was ‘treated’ and viewed throughout history. Starting from pre history and believed cave paintings of females appearing to have something flowing between their legs from their vulva. This is the closest historians have come to records or depictions of the period of this time period. Found in the caves of Upper Yule River Valley region in Pilbara Western Australia, c.10,000-15,000 BCE. These images are particularly interesting to me as they are a universal way for those who have periods to relate to our deepest ancestral women.
This trip through history continues, touching on the ancient history of the Romans and Greeks, as well as the religious middle ages and suppressive 20th century. Until it reaches the triumphs of the 21st century, whilst still emphasising how much further society has to go to fully make a period a normalised and supported experience for all who have it. With special notice of challenging heteronormative and cisnormative behaviour and ‘promote intersectional, feminist and trans inclusive values’. As stated by their “Mission” on the website (linked at the end of the article).
As someone who has herself had her fair share of periods, I can safely admit this exhibit is a big education of the menstrual cycle, what it represents in societal terms, and the people who have made it what it is today. The fun facts about how periods were thought of in history are ,well, laughable: for example, Ancient Egyptians prescribing period blood for saggy boobs and how those in the middle ages believed a cow milked by a milkmaid on her “flowers” ,as it was so called, would have to be slaughtered due to it being contaminated. As silly as these beliefs appear now they represent a stigmatisation and demonisation of females and the female body that we as a society still insight today. The idea that the period is a physical curse on females due to the sins of Eve is translated today as source material for periods being seen as gross and unsanitary, or women being presented as bitches or our emotions being disregarded because we are simply “just getting our period”.
Visually there were a few interesting items to be seen. Mostly sanitary items throughout history. From just red coloured clothes to moss that was also used to plug wounds on the battlefield. I particularly liked the idea of comparing soldiers to women on their periods. And believe me, I love a giant glittery tampon and Diva Cup as much as the next girl- but I do believe the exhibit could have benefited from a few more artistic and or interactive installations, to help further its message and attract more visitors. Which leads me onto the current situation of the museum. The weekend of the 17th of September was actually its last opening day for a while. Unfortunately, like many charity or art based institutions, The Vagina museum ,which has been operating out of Camden since 2019, was hit hard by COVID-19. The website also has this to say about their current location:
“Due to our landlord’s refusal to renew our lease, our last day open in the Camden premises will be Sept 19th. We are in the process of moving and will announce our new location soon on our website and social media.”
So I highly recommend joining the mailing list on their website as they also run events such as ‘Cliterature: The Vagina Museum Book Club‘ which I will definitely be partaking in. As the museum is reliant on donations they do currently run the risk of permanent closure, so despite tickets being technically free, donations are massively encouraged. Other ways to support the museum is the gift shop, which I may have spent as much time in as I did the actual exhibit. Because lets face it, are you even really a liberal, feminist Gen Z if you dont have a vagina postcard stuck on your wall.
Booking and General Inquiries Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 020 3715 8943