There's no shortage of companies, media outlets and thoughtless individuals with something to say about what makes a "normal" or "perfect" vagina. Despite there being no such thing – vaginas and vulvas (the external female genitalia) come in all shapes and sizes, as numerous studies have shown – women have long been made to worry that theirs is the wrong size, shape, smell... the list goes on.
Girls as young as nine are asking to have their labia shortened (a.k.a. labiaplasty) despite having no medical need for it, and doctors have reported a rise in girls being depressed by the appearance of their vagina and vulva in recent years. "Their perception is that the inner lips should be invisible, almost like a Barbie, but the reality is that there is a huge variation. It's very normal for the lips to protrude," Dr Paquita de Zulueta said earlier this year.
But sound judgements from medical professionals don't always percolate into the public consciousness and people make offhand comments – we're calling it vagina shaming – about women's genitals all the time. They're comments that may seem innocuous but, actually, they can trigger bodily insecurities and even mental health problems that last for years. Four women who've been vagina shamed told Refinery29 how it's blighted their lives.