Bleats

Doctor's Advice: Hone Your BS Detector And Leave Your Lady Parts Alone

"Think of it as a really effective self-cleaning oven."

Ahh, vaginas. They’re a source of pleasure, pain and half of the world has them yet they remain an often taboo and private part of our bodies not to be discussed. However, the conversation around vaginas – and vaginal infections, in particular – needs to become the status quo, particularly when there is so much misguided and, at times, harmful information floating around the Internet. 

Bacterial Vaginosis is a vaginal infection more common than thrush and far more common than STIs, but according to women’s health expert Dr. Ginni Mansberg, women are uncomfortable talking about it because of its most common symptom: a fishy odour. 

“A lot of women either think that smell is normal, or they’re so humiliated and embarrassed by it that they don’t really talk about it, not even to each other,” she said. “I don’t know too many besties who will go ‘does your vajayjay just stink?’”

“Apart from the fact that it’s going to smell and that will really take the edge of your sex life,” Dr. Ginni said Bacterial Vaginosis has been associated with an increased risk of premature labour, pre-term birth, and contracting an STI.

When it comes to the fishy smell, Dr. Ginni says “a lot of girls don’t realise and they’re walking around with a problem in their vagina. If your vagina always smells like fish, and the more you wash, the stinkier it gets – that’s a red flag to me.”

Dr. Ginni says a healthy vagina contains lots of lactobacillus, a ‘friendly’ bacteria that fights off ‘unfriendly’ organisms. She likens this “protective acid mantle” to a helmet that keeps bugs at bay. “Your vagina is very happy being extremely acidic – we’re talking as acidic as a citrus fruit,” she said. 

While a quick visit to the doctor is recommended, an increasing amount of women are consulting wellness websites, like Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, that flog ‘alternative’ treatment methods like yoni eggs or vaginal steaming – a practice Dr. Ginni labels as complete BS.

“I don’t know what vaginal steaming is meant to be doing,” she said. “All I can tell you is, what we know from medical journals is that it’s linked to an increased risk of second-degree burns in the vagina, which is not an easy place to treat.”

“Your vagina left to it’s own devices without added chemicals or added shit put in there will do a really good job of cleaning itself,” she said. “Think of it as a really effective self-cleaning oven – the natural bacteria in there does an awesome job of keeping your vagina sparkly clean.

“Not sparkly clean like a kitchen bench top – that’s very unhealthy. Sparkling clean the way a vagina should be.” 

According to Dr. Ginni, another common cause of Bacterial Vaginosis is douching, which involves thoroughly rinsing and washing your vagina. “Because you can buy douching equipment from chemists, people think it must be okay because why else would a chemist be selling it?” 

Unfortunately, douching your vagina is very harmful and as well as an increased risk of vaginal infection, Dr. Ginni says it can lead to more serious infections and long-term side effects, “all the way up into the uterus and tubes.”

“There are women who really struggle with the concept that what makes a toilet clean is not the same as what makes a vagina clean,” she says. “They are trying to look for zero vaginal discharge,” when in actual fact, discharge is incredibly important. “It’s awesome stuff, it’s your bodies self-cleaning fluid,” Dr. Ginni says.

So, why do we love to listen to celebs over healthcare professionals? Dr. Ginni says we as a society aren’t just taking advice about our vaginas, “It’s what you feed your baby, it’s whether or not your vaccinate, it’s what you do to lower your cholesterol.”

Dr. Ginni suggests it’s because of the changing advice of doctors. “I always hear, ‘one minute eggs are bad for you, the next they’re good for you. One minute avocados are bad for you, the next they’re good for you. You doctors just can’t make up your minds.’”

“Good science is continuing to attempt to bring down sacred cows by testing, re-testing and testing again,” she says. “Good quality trials that come out and then challenge strongly held totems of beliefs are really good.”

Being flexible in your thinking, or exercising what Dr. Ginni refers to as “cognitive agility,” is crucial in the world we live in today. She says that by taking rigidly held beliefs and sticking to them like a koala, “you’re not a scientist, that’s a religion – I don’t have any firmly held beliefs on anything.”

Then there’s Dr. Google and our obsession with Googling our symptoms. “I don’t think we should say Dr. Google is a bad thing,” Dr. Ginni says. “But it’s a new tool and we need to hone our bullshit detectors.”

Conversations like this might feel awkward and uncomfortable but Dr. Ginni says “if you don’t get any help, the consequences can be as mild as being a bit smelly and embarrassed to as horrific as late pregnancy loss and a higher risk of STIs.” 

“If just one girl who reads this feels empowered to get that symptom treated, then that’s a really powerful thing,” she says. So there you have it, treat your vagina like the beautiful self-cleaning oven that it is, and keep your bullshit detector on high alert at all times. We owe it to ourselves.

Employers Ban Japanese Women From Wearing Glasses Cos Seeing Isn't 'Sexy'

Wait, what?

By now, we’ve all become familiar with the long list of unrealistic expectations women face on a daily basis. In order to look “pretty” or be “sexy” and “desirable,” women must subscribe to a certain “look,” and according to various Japanese employers, that also includes your prescription glasses.

According to Business Insider, various businesses around Japan – including department stores and beauty clinics – have banned women from wearing glasses. Why? Because apparently they make employees look “cold, unfriendly, unfeminine,” or – the most unbelievable – “too intelligent.”

An anonymous Japanese woman in her twenties who works as a receptionist at a major department store was told by her superior that “glasses are prohibited” at her place of work. 

“I told myself at that time that we weren’t allowed glasses because we needed to look feminine, that it just wouldn’t do to wear them,” she said. “Now that I think about it, perhaps it was that they wanted us all to look uniform, as though we were part of some kind of gymnastics squad.”

The woman said her vision without glasses was so bad she’d spend her entire break with her eyes shut just to relieve dryness and fatigue. “There are often mornings where I just think to myself, ‘I wish I could wear glasses.’”

She revealed that she was told “over and over I needed to look sweeter and more feminine,” and that certain types of makeup and hair colours were also banned, including glittery eye shadows, dark lipstick, coloured contact lenses and eyelash extensions. 

The worst part of all is that wearing glasses is reportedly totally acceptable for the male receptionists – but not the females.

“It seems like only women are being asked for the appearance of beauty and feminine that isn’t imposed on me,” she said. “I just don’t understand.”

Another woman, who also chose to remain anonymous, said she experienced the same rules working as a nurse at a beauty clinic in Japan. 

“I was told it would help boost sales, it would make me more convincing and I accepted it,” she said. “At the university hospital, we were judged based on our technique and knowledge but at beauty clinics, it was more about looks. I was a nurse but felt like I was being asked to be a sort of a doll.”

In South Korea, women facing similar social oppression have fought back with the “escape the corset” movement which is all about rejecting society’s expectation that women should have a “porcelain complexion, luxuriant long hair, lots of makeup and form-fitting dresses.”

It’s so important that movements like “escape the corset” exist to shine a light on how harmful the male gaze can be, and that women deserve to be treated as equals to their male counterparts. Oh, and that glasses are necessary for many people and do not have anything to do with how “feminine” or “intelligent” someone is.

How Much Power Should Your Parents Really Have Over Your Sexual Health?

Rapper T.I says he has his daughter's hymen checked yearly.

2019 has been a big year for women’s rights. The #MeToo movement gave a voice to victims of sexual assault, women were championed in business, entertainment and sport, and abortion was legalised in a handful of countries – including NSW 

But just when you thought women had started to regain control over their own bodies, rapper T.I makes a bunch of comments about his daughter’s sexual health that make it feel like we’ve taken one hundred steps backwards.

In a recent interview with Nazanin Mandi and Nadia Moham on Ladies Like Us, T.I was asked if he’s had the “sex talk” with his daughters.

“Not only have we had the conversation,” T.I said. “We have yearly trips to the gynecologist to check her hymen…Yes, I go with her.”

T.I, whose real name is Clifford Joseph Harris Jr, went on to explain that after his daughter’s 16th birthday, he “put a sticky note on the door,” which read: “Gyno. Tomorrow. 9:30.

“So we’ll go and sit down and the doctor comes and talk, and the doctor’s maintaining a high level of professionalism,” he said. “He’s like, ‘You know, sir, I have to, in order to share information’ – I’m like, ‘Deyjah, they want you to sign this so we can share information. Is there  anything you would not want me to know? See, Doc? Ain’t no problem.” 

Later, T.I said the doctors informed him of the many ways a hymen can be broken other than through sexual penetration. “I say, ‘Look, Doc, she don’t ride no horses, she don’t ride no bike, she don’t play no sports. Just check the hymen, please, and give me back my results expeditiously.”

“I will say, as of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact,” he added. 

T.I’s comments were quick to cop major backlash online, with Twitter users claiming his fixation on maintaining his daughters virginity is “outdated,” “weird and toxic.”

It also begs the question: how much control should parents have over their 18-year-old child’s sexual health – or more specifically, the state of their hymen.

In response to T.I’s comments, OB/GYN Dr. Jennifer Gunter said, “the hymen is no virginity indicator, 50% of sexually active teens do not have a disrupted hymen.”

“The hymen means nothing physically and hymen exams are medically not a thing and are unnecessary,” she said. “And support a disgusting patriarchal trope.”

Dr. Jennifer Gunter isn’t the only one who views T.I’s control over his daughter’s sexual health as a violation. The World Health Organisation says “‘virginity testing’ has no scientific or clinical basis.”

“There is no examination that can prove a girl or woman has had sex – and the appearance of a girl’s or woman’s hymen cannot prove whether they have had sexual intercourse, or are sexually active or not.”

A 2017 study reviewing virginity testing published in the Reproductive Health Journal found that not only does hymen examination “not accurately or reliably predict virginity status,” but it “could cause physical, psychological, and social harms to the examinee.”

It appears that T.I’s efforts have already had a negative impact, with his daughter Deyjah retweeting a series of posts denouncing her father’s behaviour. 

It’s time to do away with the outdated views and the persistent desire to control women and their bodies. It also sounds like T.I could do with a healthy reality check when it comes to his daughter’s sexual health and independence.

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