On January 17, 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams delivered a powerful address on women’s health, stating, “[When] we can talk about erectile dysfunction but not clitoris stimulation…something is wrong.” He also said, “We would have a lot more research and care options for women’s health if we weren’t so afraid of saying the word ‘vagina.’” He then went on to outline a Women’s Health Initiative that sets the stage for thorough and complete care.
Even if you’re not from New York City, it is home to approximately 8.5 million people (which is more than the population of 37 states). So, when the mayor talks, it matters. His words, and this health initiative, come at a time when words like vagina and vulva are finally getting used as correct anatomical terms in major media and social media. Vaginal health, period care and menopause care are moving out of the shadows, and sexuality is moving from an often shameful or titillating topic to being considered an important part of overall wellness.
Ignoring women’s biology reflects the long shadow of religious and political suppression of the feminine, including slanted and shamed sexuality, and biased, unequal medical research. The hush-hush euphemistic language used to discuss a woman’s sexual organs doesn’t help. The absence of intimate education and knowledge impact women’s health and self-care every day.
Secrecy in general leads to suffering: We don’t take care of the parts of society that are pushed into a corner, hidden from view or ignored. In the case of women’s intimate health, that suffering doesn’t have to exist.
You can help the culture move from shame to neutrality, no matter your gender, by developing personal literacy on women’s intimate anatomy and life cycles; having shameless discussions using anatomically correct language; and advocating for equal research and care into female diseases and health issues.
That’s one step closer to a state of wonder at these bodies we inhabit, care for and celebrate. Read more from Mayor Adams’ address at nyc.gov.