Ironically, as I write this I am being chastised on Facebook for writing a status update — “Never underestimate the effects of a good bath on a bad period” — which is neither graphic, nor indiscreet but simply a matter of fact. Okay, so it’s a fact that applies solely to people with vaginas, but a fact nonetheless. Comments such as “gross,” “grim”, and ew “bloodbath” came flooding in (see the pun?). But really, other than going against the unsaid patriarchal law that associations with the feminine (i.e., menstruating) must remain out of sight, I’ve done nothing wrong.
The silencing of important feminine medical issues has gone on far too long. Whilst I have witnessed Facebook updates from my male peers about the “massive shit” they’ve just taken, which is received by virtual applause in “likes” and “what a lad” comments, women are vilified for mentioning other, equally natural bodily matters: Anything to do with being an AFAB* woman.
Not only does this create a social space where people with vaginas feel ashamed and secretive about the normal functions of their bodies, it also prevents them from accessing important information or asking questions about vitally imperative and sometimes lifesaving matters. It is for this reason I am ecstatic that Nadia Kamil has released a rap video about… getting a pap smear! (I am also ecstatic because it features UK comedian Josie Long, who I smashed through puberty with a girl crush on, but that is by the side).
Kamil skilfully raises factual awareness about cervical cancer, such as it being the second most common cancer and the fifth most deadly, alongside practical advice such as wearing a skirt to your pap smear appointment. Self-disclosure: I didn’t know any of this. As such, I have never had a smear test because I genuinely did not realise how important they are. And, when I got a vaginal examination, I went wearing a romper playsuit, like a novice – it seems silly retrospectively, but as I had never had a conversation about vaginal examinations with anyone, I had no idea what to expect. I ended up lying completely naked on the examination table when, if these issues had been more freely discussed, I could have simply popped my panties off and lifted my skirt a little.
However, as if the video was not awesome enough, Kamil claims to have tweeted the entire way through her smear test and has set up the twitter hashtag #SocialMediaSmearPioneer for other people to do the same. It is one thing to say the words “vagina” and “cervix” to your doctor, it is another thing entirely to force your entire virtual world to acknowledge that feminine medical issues ARE medical issues and deserve discussion. Hats (or should I say “panties”) off to you, Nadia!
*Assigned female at birth