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What’s That on a Gillian Anderson’s Dress? Not a Vagina, Definitely

What’s That on a Gillian Anderson’s Dress? Not a Vagina, Definitely

Actress Gillian Anderson wore a striking white dress with a vulva and clitoris print to the 2024 Golden Globe Awards. But most of the media, which are apparently run by either men or women who do not know their own anatomy, wrote – “a dress with vaginas”. One of the rare cases where vulva was spelled correctly was Harper’s BazaarAnderson herself actually referred to that part of the body as “yoni” in her statement. Yoni is a Sanskrit term for female genitalia and is often used in the context of spirituality and sexuality to emphasize the sacred and powerful nature of the female reproductive region and the feminine principle.

vagina vs vulva

In everyday conversation, the terms vulva and vagina are often used interchangeably, but in reality, these terms refer to different parts of the female genital anatomy. Understanding their difference is key to maintaining women’s reproductive health.

The vulva represents the outer part of the female genitalia and includes all the structures we can see. This includes the labia, the clitoris, the mons pubis (pubic hill or the mount of Venus) and the opening of the urethra. The labia consists of two folds that protect the opening of the vagina and urethra (labia major and labia minor). The clitoris, a sensitive organ with many nerve endings, plays a key role in sexual arousal. The mons pubis is a protrusion above the clitoris, covered with hairs, while the opening of the urethra allows – guess what! – emptying the bladder.

The vagina, on the other hand, is an internal canal that connects the vulva to the uterus. This is an elastic muscular organ whose size can change during a woman’s life. The vagina plays an important role in sexual intercourse, childbirth and the monthly cycle. During childbirth, the vagina serves as a passage for the child from the womb to the outside.

Understanding the difference between the vulva and vagina is key to preserving a woman’s reproductive health. Regular gynecological examinations help to detect potential problems, and self-examinations of the vulva can also contribute to the early recognition of changes. Maintaining hygiene and caring for the vulva is important for preventing infections.

In short, the vulva is the external part of the female genitalia, while the vagina is the internal channel that connects the vulva to the uterus. Let’s not confuse them. What would it be like if someone called you by a different name??

 

Author:

Jelena Kalinić, MA in comparative literature and graduate biologist, science journalist and science communicator, has a WHO infodemic manager certificate and Health metrics Study design & Evidence based medicine training. Winner of the 2020 EurekaAlert (AAAS) Fellowship for Science Journalists. Short-runner, second place in the selection for European Science journalist of the year for 2022.