My vagina needed a context of other vaginas – a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them – like the Bermunda Triangle…. Paraphrased from the Vagina monologues
I woke up to a beeping phone that seemed more determined than ever to wake me up. I had to respond to my upset child and so I reached out and grabbed the love child that helped me keep in touch with people I cared about. The issue onboard in our twenty two all female group chat was a debate over a lady gynecologist’s post on social media about her nose feeling abused due to the fact that women these days walk in to be examined with unclean , stinky vaginas (to state quite bluntly). I just had to read what my friends thought and in a bit I found out that while some of them seemed to have a practical appreciation of the issue and saw nothing wrong with a female doctor taking to social media to inform other women about doing right by themselves and cleaning up, another faction thought it was inappropriate to bring women down especially on social media in a non constructive way. Their main point was how the doctor reported the issue, stating a fact which almost sounded like a complaint and calling for ladies to clean up ‘the region’ knowing very well they would be examined at the gynae. They questioned the usefulness of the post since the culprit may not even necessarily be on social media let alone a part of the targeted audience of the doctor. Another question was why the doctor chose not to talk to the culprit in that very moment when the ‘nose’ was offended by the ‘region?’
In the din of conversation, I had two questions; 1. what smells have the power to abuse the nose and which do not? 2. which nose decides which smell is standard and what is even the standard smell?!
Then again I had a problem with how many pseudonyms and how difficult it seemed to have a clear conversation about the vagina in our cultural context. The Ghanaian one precisely. ‘The region’, ‘the palace’, ‘down there’ , ‘the toto’ the list of pseudonyms for our vaginas is endless and in a culture where the vagina is seen as a hidden, dark and possibly smelly place, such comments like the doctor’s give life to such skewed impressions. Such comments make clueless and sometimes less confident women frantic all in a bid to make their ‘places’ more appealing, more desirable, more inviting. ( watch the belly button test on an African city for more context to this ) Growing up, I wondered if there would’ve been such a fuss about vaginas and other ‘sensitive’ issues if the vagina (or the penis) was on one’s forehead in plain view of everyone? Would it have been a usual part of our lives and receive the same amount of indifference as one’s cheeks or earlobes? Would it have been such a big deal? I doubt it would’ve, but the location alone of this ‘region’, the vagina, hidden under layers and layers of cloth and ornaments and shrouded in total secrecy, that’s what combines with a culture that gets slow and suddenly sensitive about this subject. Did God make a mistake? Certainly not, so we might as well embrace vaginas and all the good they come with! The vagina is as much a part of the human body as the calf or ankle or armpit, these are areas we hardly stop to think about but do we make a fuss over them? Or do we have pseudonyms for them? Does anyone call their ankle the ‘palace’ ‘the place’ or ‘down there?’
Moving back to the subject of smells, again I ask, which nose determines if the vagina smells appropriate or inappropriate ? What does your pussy smell like? The answer may very well lie in the face of your husband or lover or gynae. A gynecologist’s job though encompasses creating that safe place where patients can come in confidentiality and security entrusting their health, integrity and very essence not because health workers are gods but because we trust them enough to help us. Second is the fact that most women often choose lady gynecologists simply because they expect some kind of affinity and understanding of the particular issue at hand simply because of a common gender. Therefore a woman choosing to be ‘seen’ by a lady Gynecologist means a lot and while it may not necessarily be the doctor’s duty to chastise a patient for the abuse of the codes of basic personal hygiene, it would also not hurt to do give some tiny orientation from a health worker and a woman’s perspective. As it is, there are too many uncomfortable glares and shifting in seats when such issues are brought up so why stoke fires and blast someone on social media over an abused nose?! Does it solve anything?! There is more to be done, tackling personal hygiene of our vaginas is an intimidating topic on its own and yet another daunting topic is even how to do it! In this light, health workers need to be more forgiving. However, before losing your sanity as a woman over what the world says about the ideal smell, be confident knowing that your vagina like any part of your body needs to be treated with love. It is unrealistic to expect your vagina to smell like vanilla, (does your skin smell like vanilla?!) douches and their sister products have the potential to mess you up,( stay clear of them and save our men the inconvenience of mistaking them for shower gels! ) Embrace your unique smell knowing that the good news is that your vagina doesn’t ask for much, mostly water, clean fresh comfortable underwear and regular hair maintenance just as you do for the hair on your head. It is only after you have satisfied the basic requirements of personal hygiene that you can say “pussy gotta smell like pussy”. Pussy gotta smell like pussy?! Sorry love, you can’t neglect your vagina for days and defensively say pussy gotta smell like pussy. Feet that smell like foot rot do not smell like feet. Do your part of loving yourself and then your gynae will do their part of talking to you if something is not right and hopefully not take to social media.