By: Miranda Levy
Let’s talk about vaginas, shall we? After all they are attached to our bodies, so why shouldn’t we discuss them? Many women were never given a proper sexual education, in fact I have met girls my age who did not know what a vulva was. This is not meant to shame those women, but rather bring to light the fact that many women do not know all they need to know about their bodies. This is not a new issue. In the late 60s and early 70s, consciousness raising was a major movement in the feminist community. Women would get together in groups, read books about feminism, and discuss their ideas. This was not the most interesting part about those meetings, though. The women would take hand mirrors and would look for their cervixes! It was like a group scavenger hunt, just with vaginas. So why am I talking about a cervix scavenger hunt? Well, the reason these women did this was because they simply did not know enough about their bodies. Today, many women continue to be in the dark about their own vaginas. I am 19 years old, and I have used a hand mirror (well actually the front camera on my phone) to take a little looksy, but many women I have talked to have never really seen their own vaginas. I am a very open person, so I am even more open with myself. I have no problem taking a look and exploring my body to make sure everything is healthy. Often times women are expected to not talk about vaginas, periods, or anything of the sort. On the same premise, women are expected to be somewhat ashamed of their vaginas and most of the natural parts about them: discharge, periods, pubic hair, etc. Boobs make the cut, though. The main slogan for breast cancer awareness is “save the boobies” and women are encouraged to check for lumps. I have never seen a fundraiser or event that promoted vaginal health.
Save the vaginas! Of course, genitalia are different than breasts… but still. I think it is important to get an idea of what you’re working with, so that you can use it as a base for your vaginal education. You should be familiar with your body so that you can be comfortable in your body. There are plenty of tips about vaginal health that many people are not aware of. I used to struggle with constant UTI’s, so I began to learn a lot about vaginal health. As a result, a lot of my friends come to me with their questions. So here is a list of tips and tricks to keep your vag healthy and happy!
Take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar everyday to prevent infection. Apple cider vinegar kills bad bacteria in your system and is a good, easy way, to avoid yeast infections.
Use a soap that won’t mess with your pH balance. Your vaginal pH is acidic and soap pH is alkaline. Vaginal pH is a very important part of your vagina’s self-cleaning process. So, when something throws off your pH, it may result in more unhealthy bacteria and less healthy bacteria. Even if it does not cause infection, it will most likely result in a fishy odor. Also, for the same reasons, DO NOT DOUCHE. Because your vagina is naturally self cleaning, it is often best to just give it some water and leave it alone! BUT, you should clean your vulva about 4 or 5 times a week. If you are going to use soap to clean down there, just use an unscented glycerin or castile soap.
Eat foods that are good for your vagina. Eat yogurt to help a yeast infection, drink cranberry juice to improve urinary tract health, and eat soy if you are having trouble with lubrication (soy has estrogen in it, so enough consumption of soy can aid in lubrication). Overall, a balanced diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables is the best way to go if you want to maintain a healthy body, and more specifically, a healthy vagina.
Take probiotics to prevent yeast infection. Specifically look for Lactobacillus rhamnosus (GR-1) and Lactobacillus reuteri (RC-14). You can often find probiotics specific to yeast balance at Target, CVS, Whole Foods, and more.
Water, water, water. I will admit, I often struggle with this one. I am very bad about remembering to drink enough water everyday. You should drink at least 2 liters of water a day. This will keep your urinary tract healthy, helping you to avoid UTI’s and general painful urination.
Take care of yourself and your body! Do not let societal stigmas keep you from being comfortable in your own skin.
Photography by Erin McDowell
That Feminist Jew is a bi-monthly opinion column written by Miranda Levy. As your go-to sex expert, That Feminist Jew provides advice on sexual health, mental and emotional connections to sex, reflections on college sexual culture, and more.