Back in November 2019, in the early days of london feminista, I wrote about the newly open sensation – a VAGINA Museum in the heart of Camden Town - double whammy! I remember speaking to Zoe, the Development and Marketing Manager at the time, and her excitement was palpable: securing the space had been a total coup – and in line with the area’s radical history. Suddenly, wandering around the cobbled alleys of the ‘Stables Market’ had acquired a whole new, more disruptive, meaning. The location made the museum more visible and accessible, even in the week, visitors are both intentional and serendipitous, crowded the space. In its opening weekend (16 November 2019), a staggering 4,000 visitors popped by, many having to queue to see the exhibition.
…. Then the pandemic happened and, like many small businesses, it was forced to close its doors and resume an online presence. It felt like a setback …. but the team worked super hard and BOOM, they’re open again, in a less glitzy, but equally radical location - Bethnal Green, East London.
So, what is it all about?
The museum’s founder Florence Schechter was shocked to find that there was a penis museum, sex and sex toys museums – and none about the vagina. Such is the stigma about the gynaecological anatomy that it is hardly surprising. The museum can really help debunking myths and provide an important resource for everyone. Be prepared for your assumptions to be challenged.
Their first exhibition – Muff Busters – revealed some gobsmacking stats: 60% of women can’t label the vulva on an anatomical diagram or that more than a quarter of women aged 25 to 29 in Britain are too embarrassed to attend cervical screening. This time around it's Periods: A Brief History, which takes you through some fascinating facts about menstruation across the ages. There is also a fab gift shop!
More than a museum
While the response to its opening was overwhelmingly positive, with people from all over the world, from the USA to Australia and across Europe, showing an interest, there was inevitably some criticism from certain quarters, including about the mission statement, which clearly promotes intersectional, feminist and trans-inclusive values – as it should. We cannot challenge taboo about our bodies and parts of our anatomy without also addressing issues of gender and sex and challenging heteronormative, cisnormative[i] behaviours.
What’s particularly great about the move – especially as summer approaches - is its proximity to Victoria (Vicky) park, Regent’s Canal, the London Buddhist Centre and, if you’re keen to part with vast sums of money quickly, Broadway market … though I’ll admit it, I do love popping into the Dove for a cheeky Belgian beer.
Get your muffs down to Bethnal Green and show them some love!
18 Victoria Park Square, London, E2 9PF
Free admission. Book a timed ticket