By Clare Matthes
Let’s reflect carefully on a pad ad… you know, the blue liquid test, that perfectly represents what happens to a woman during her week of riddance. I recall a humorous story of a friend at school telling her boyfriend that it was “that time of the month” and him responding with a very casual: “Oh! When the blue liquid comes.”
It’s pretty laughable that a man/boy doesn’t know what happens to a woman’s body because of her reproductive system, but then again, plenty of women don’t know what’s REALLY going on down there either. Without accurate, detailed and rigorous education of the intimate process, how on earth would anyone understand?
Notoriously old-fashioned, the femcare market continues to use ‘blue liquid demonstrations’, while real women are too shy, or ashamed or embarrassed to discuss femcare openly. Your period and your vagina are taboo and not to be discussed! But how will we recognise healthcare problems when we're too shy to speak up and discuss the subject? How will women know what’s going on down there and if everything is okay?
“In this information age, it’s time for credible, relevant content to be delivered to consumers in a way they find most engaging," says Kerry Hibberd, strategic planner at Net#work BBDO. And when it comes to femcare, that means ditching traditional, awkward TV spots in favour of interesting vagina care information delivered in a light-hearted manner that women can watch in their own time, on the devices they choose.
“Most women only know what they’ve learned from their mothers, or sisters or friends at school. We don’t want to replace those conversations – we want to spark, inform and enrich them.”
Enter Vagina Varsity, (yes, I said vagina!), which hopes to dispel the many myths of the ever elusive and yet oh so recognisable period. The ‘world’s first’ Vagina Varsity (said it again!) was born. Here women, and men, can learn about a female body in a private, safe setting, where professionals lead them on a personal Vagina Varsity course.
The course is a mix of short video content and extra bonus material in email-format; covering everything from anatomy to discharge, contraception and when to see a doctor.
The educational material is provided by psychosexual consultant Avri Spilka; Anne Hirsch scripted and directed all the video content, and YouTube sensation ‘Pap Culture’ deliver the message with ‘real talk’.
Vagina Varsity wouldn’t exist without the backing of sanitary ware giant Lebresse. They do talks to young girls about period care, but they wanted to do something bigger. Next year, the Vagina Varsity course will also head to schools.
Interestingly, the most frequented pages on femcare website, says Hibberd, seem to be the FAQ pages, while consumer research groups find that women start out shy and reserved when vaginal care topics are introduced but can’t be stopped once they realise they’re in a safe space. “The same is true for our school talks,” says Hibberd. “Women of all ages want the information we have – they just don’t want it on traditional channels in old-fashioned ways.”
Academics such as Dr Mpume Simelane, gynaecologist based at Leratong Hospital have welcomed and even celebrated Libresse’s approach to femcare and the vagina. Simelane mentions that she sees too many patients who don’t know the workings of the reproductive system in women. “Even well-educated adult women don’t understand exactly what’s happening to their bodies.”
Simelane explains that too many women are washing themselves with harsh household detergents in order to be “clean”. These anecdotes are then passed on to the next generation and so it goes on and on. It’s the urban legends and myths that need to be eradicated and set right.
“By educating these women and girls, we promote a healthy vagina and a healthy body."
The process of registering for Vagina Varsity is simple;
- Register for free, on www.vaginavarsity.co.za until December 2016 with your name and email address
- Receive the welcome mailer detailing the course contents
- Get super-short video’s delivered to your inbox for a month
- Move from a vagina-haver to a vagina-expert with simple weekly quizzes.
About Clare Matthes
Clare’s father swears she was born waving spirit fingers and singing tah-dah! in an oh-so-dahling-showbiz-esque manner. Nicknamed “Schnauze” because of her smart mouth and quick whit, Clare enjoys putting the world in words. Wordsmith by day and dance teacher by night, maybe the other way around, this sarcastic eye-roller-extraordinaire has a passion for putting things into text. Always finding it necessary to see the humour in things, she never shies away from a good old égoportrait (selfie).