A London museum dedicated to vaginas and women’s health keeps causing the same “controversy”
Written by Amy Beecham
Despite continued closures and censorship attempts, London’s Vagina Museum remains the first of its kind, doing the important work of breaking taboos and empowering through education.
When the Vagina Museum first launched as a pop-up art project in 2017, its aim was to spread knowledge and raise awareness of gynaecological anatomy and health, as well as give people the confidence to talk openly about issues surrounding their vulvas and vaginas.
The museum opened a physical space in Camden Market in 2019, which was hailed as “groundbreaking”; however, its doors closed in early 2021 after the contract was not renewed.
Alongside this physical setback, the museum has been subject to near-constant censorship online for its open use of the word ‘vagina’.
“It took weeks to get our TripAdvisor page up, and we kept getting rejected because our name contained the word ‘vagina’,” the organisers told Stylist. “Even once the page was up, algorithms about ‘obscene words’ remained in place, so many reviewers struggled to mention what they had learned in the museum.”
“Recently, Instagram flagged some realistic illustrations of vulvas we’d reposted from a partner under ‘nudity’,” they continued. “It was only when this was picked up in the news that they changed their stance.”
But despite the continued hurdles, the museum remains firm in its goal to erase the stigma around the bodyand promote intersectional, feminist and trans-inclusive values.
Now, ahead of its re-opening on 19 March, it has launched an eye-catching new campaign that aims to break taboos in a fun and empowering way.
Posters hung throughout Bethnal Green in east London, the new site of the museum, tease the public to “Mind The WAP” and “be the first to come”.
“Half the word has a vulva, a vagina and a clitoris – so it should be normal to use these words in our everyday vernacular and be comfortable seeing them mentioned on billboards,” explains the museum’s creative director Nathalie Gordon.
“If anyone finds the campaign sensationalist, inappropriate or weird, it says more about them than it does the work or the museum.”
“Even though half the world has one and most of us came out of one, vaginas are still misunderstood and unappreciated, with very real stigma creating very real problems in real people to this day,” the museum’s marketing manager Zoe Williams shares with Stylist.
“The Vagina Museum exists to address this balance. We’ve fought against the odds to carve out this space against the atmosphere of shame in an environment where many would prefer we didn’t exist. Vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy deserve to be understood and celebrated.”
The Vagina Museum reopens in Bethnal Green on 19 March. Visit its website to find out more.
Images: The Vagina Museum
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