Set to be the world’s first bricks and mortar museum dedicated to vaginas, vulvas and the gynaecological anatomy, the Vagina Museum, (the first and only registered charity in the UK with vagina in its title) is positioned to open in Camden Market in November 2019. But to make this great (and time sensitive) opportunity a reality, we need your help to do it! We have launched a crowdfunder to achieve this.
Credit: Joséphine Amsler
Why is a Vagina Museum needed?
The big question! While the name might shock or even make you giggle at first, stigma has real world consequences:
If you can’t even use the word vagina, think how tremendously that impacts your health…
65% of 16-25 year old women say they have a problem using the words vagina or vulva and more than 1 in 10 of 16-35 year old women said they found it very hard to talk to their GPs about gynaecological health concerns. Nearly a third admitted that they had avoided going to the doctors altogether with gynaecological issues due to embarrassment (Eve Appeal, 2016) Over a quarter (26.7%) of 25-29 year olds in Britain are too embarrassed to attend cervical screening (Jo’s Trust, 2017)
Mental Health and a Crisis of Body Image
There has been a 500% increase in the number of labiaplasties on the NHS between 2002 and 2012. A huge driver of this has been the “unrealistically narrow representations of vulval appearance in popular culture” (RCOG, 2012)
A Dedication to Inclusivity and Intersectionality
Four in five LGBT people who have experienced a hate crime or incident didn’t report it to the police (The Gay British Crime Survey, 2013)
Consent: Words are Power
Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence report to the police (An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, 2013)
Not Just Vagina Owners Need to Know about Vaginas
Half of men wouldn’t feel comfortable chatting about gynaecological issues with a female partner, and many said they still see the vagina as ‘shrouded in mystery’ (Eve Appeal, 2017)
With a Vagina Museum, all people can learn that there is nothing shameful or offensive about vaginas and vulvas and by fighting stigma, we can be a part of helping solve these problems.
The Vagina Museum founder, Florence Schechter (right), and one of the Vagina Museum volunteers, Jasmine Evans (left). Credit: Nicole Rixon
To open the Museum, we need to raise £300,000 - £130,000 in first round - which will cover exhibitions, an outreach programme, rent and staffing - for which we will be paying above the London Living Wage for all paid positions.
We will host rotating exhibitions on everything from anatomy and health, to periods and sex, to art and design, to history and society. There will be free admission to the Museum because we believe access to knowledge about our bodies should not be dependent on your financial situation. This is another reason the crowdfunder is so important.
By opening our first premises, we can host an outreach programme that includes supporting healthy and inclusive sex and relationships education, engaging with doctors and other medical professionals to provide better services and supporting the trans and intersex communities. A packed events programme will include talks, panels, workshops, classes, comedy nights, performances and so much more!
The Museum will not have a minimum age limit because it is always important to learn about our bodies, no matter our age. It will the choice of parents and guardians if they wish to bring their children.
In support of the Museum’s mission we have created an advisory board and board of trustees that includes a hugely diverse group of people from all walks of life including medical professionals; scientists; academics in gender studies, literature and history of sex work; curators; activists working in LGBT+ rights, fighting FGM and supporting people in poverty who menstruate; and sex educators.
We have been offered by Camden Market the first floor floor of a building in Stables Market. It is 4,354 square feet and is Grade II listed.
Exhibition space - 1866 sq ft
Here we will host exhibitions that will change every six months or so on everything from the history of period products to the science of animal vaginas to the art of the mighty vulva.
Events space - 622 sq ft
This space will be multipurpose and host all kinds of events from performances and talks like plays, concerts and comedy shows to workshops making zines, embroidery, protest signs, and more.
Reception and shop - 622 sq ft
At our entrance will be a reception where you can find out all the fabulous things that are happening. It will also contain a shop where you can pick up Vagina Museum merch, feminist books, jewellery and all wonderful things vag-related.
Office - 622 sq ft
This is where our lovely staff will work from to create the programming, plan out the outreach programme and generally oil the cogs of the Museum.
Storage and multipurpose room - 622 sq ft
It's not nearly as sexy as the exhibition space, but this is where we are going to keep extra stock, store exhibitions that aren't on display and the things we need to help the Museum function like extra chairs.
The building also has a balcony and on our outer walls we are going to hang Sheela Na Gigs and other vulva related bits of our history. There are some planters that we intend to fill with plants that have historically been used as period pain relief, contraception, etc.
A workshop we did at Green Man Festival, Wales. Credit: Vagina Museum
Quotes from supporters
Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council, says:
"Camden has a proud and radical history of challenging prejudice and orthodoxy, however, we acknowledge that the stigma associated with talking about gynaecological health has meant ignorance, confusion, shame, and poor medical care for too many. 65 % of 16-to-25 year olds say they have a problem using the word vagina or vulva with almost half of 18-to-24 year old women say they are too embarrassed to talk about sexual health issues. We are therefore incredibly excited that the Vagina Museum is seeking to establish in Camden, and hope that it is funded to provide an inclusive and intersectional centre for learning, creativity, activism, and outreach that will add immeasurably to our collective understanding of our bodies.”
Dr Alison Wright, Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says:
“The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists would like to express its support for the Vagina Museum to have a space to exhibit in Camden. We have recently collaborated with the Vagina Museum to engage women in conversations about some of the taboos that exist around women’s health. Both organisations share a common mission of spreading knowledge and raise awareness of gynaecological anatomy and health. We believe the museum will be a huge asset to help people to understand women’s health and to talk about it more openly.”
In the space with Jasmine and her clitorises. Credit: Nicole Rixon
I can’t donate but I would like to help, what can I do?
Thank you for your support! You can share this crowdfunder on social media, and email it to people you know who would be interested.
What are your social media links?
You wouldn’t need so much money if you just put it online, so why does it need to be a museum?
Museums are used by societies to flag post what they deem important. Countries will have museums dedicated to important industries, art and history. If we want the gynaecological anatomy to be respected and loved, as a society, we need to make the statement that we value them.
Museums act as the custodians of history for society and give the public access to their history. Vaginas and vulvas have often been relegated to the backs of cupboards by curators because they are commonly deemed too controversial or difficult for the public. We can borrow these collections and increase public access, as these objects are rarely shown anywhere else.
Museums support communities that are hurt by the patriarchy. Austerity and budget cuts in the UK disproportionately hurt women and marginalised communities. 72% of tax increases and benefit cuts from austerity measures directly impact upon women (Oxfam, 2013). 58% of LGBT spaces in London have closed since 2006 (Greater London Authority, 2017). A museum can provide resources such as space and awareness.
The heritage sector can be slow-moving and its inherent misogyny can take a long time to shake. The Vagina Museum can support the industry by leading by example.
Why aren't you called the Vulva Museum?
The museum is going to be about the entire gynaecological anatomy and its place in our culture and history. There is no good word for the whole anatomy that isn't overly medical (gynaecological system) or trans-exclusionary (e.g. female reproductive system). 'Vulva' only refers to the external parts (labia, clitoris, opening to the vagina, etc) and not the uterus, ovaries, etc, therefore would not be an accurate word to describe the entire anatomy. In a vulva museum that was being totally faithful to the name, things like PCOS, cervical cancer, most forms of contraception and even pregnancy could not be explored. Vagina isn't a more accurate word either, we totally admit that. But we thought it was a more recognisable word than vulva which is important to make the museum accessible. In the permanent museum, there will be an exhibit about anatomy and the differences between the external and internal anatomy, the vulva and vagina and other parts.
Together (and with your support of our crowdfunder) we can build the world’s first bricks and mortar Vagina Museum, reclaiming both history and our bodies!
Our volunteers at our pop up at London Metropolitan Archives. Credit: Vagina Musuem