Interview with Vulvani: Why Representation of Menstruation Matters

From educational coloring books to a stock photo gallery of menstruation, Britta, Vulvani founder gives us the answer

What is Vulvani? What do you do?

Hi! I’m Britta, the co-founder of Vulvani. Vulvani is a digital education platform with content all around the topic of menstruation, sexuality and cycle health. Through interactive online courses, our online magazine as well as social media channels, people can playfully close knowledge gaps about the female body. We want to provide impulses that make you start questioning the status quo instead of providing universal solutions. 

Our vision is that every person has the opportunity to learn about their unique body. Vulvani’s goal is to normalize taboo topics through entertaining and practical education in order to empower individuals while creating inclusive societies.

With the Vulvani Gallery on our website, we launched the world's first stock photo gallery exclusively about menstruation. Here you can find over 150 free stock photos - made with real menstrual blood and sustainable period products. One was used in the cover photo!

Why does the representation of images matter?

There’s an old adage, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ and when we started Vulvani, we realized there was a lack of accurate visual representations of periods. Hiding periods, for example the blue liquid as period blood in advertising, was the norm until quite recently. As both menstrual taboo is still deeply embedded in today’s society, and as history has shown, period taboos don't disappear by themselves and are continuously perpetuated. Change often doesn’t happen on its own, we need to work for it, and we wanted our photo gallery to be part of that change

We didn’t want to use any photos that would reproduce prejudices of menstruation , so we had to get creative and create them ourselves. This is exactly why period photography is so important for the normalization of menstruation. Capturing images of real menstrual blood makes the everyday reality of millions of people all over the world visible. When menstrual blood is reframed as beautiful, as a piece of art, the image of periods is challenged. The goal is to know more about menstruation and therefore feeling comfortable about discussing them - one picture at a time.

What does expansion look like for the photos (longer term goals)?

We want to show the world through our photography that menstruation and everything that comes with it, is not gross or dirty. We want to show people that menstruation is a natural part of human life. You will be surprised how beautiful menstrual blood can be! 

Our first focus has been on menstruation. Long-term we would love to include even more topics surrounding menstruation, such as menopause, PMS or cervical mucus. There are also other aspects like diversity and inclusion that we hope to expand on in the future.

We’re always happy about feedback and input for ways to make the Vulvani Gallery even better.

As long as taboos around the female body exist, we will continue to be creative and create beautiful images.

Talk about the vulva coloring book in terms of why do you feel it’s important, when and who is the target audience for this (and why)?

The vulva is still too often supposed to conform to a certain ideal of beauty. If your own vulva doesn’t look like the ones portrayed in media or porn, it can cause feelings of shame or distress.

Through the coloring book we want to show that no two vulvas look alike. All vulvas are different and beautiful. We wanted to create something that is easy-going and fun. It’s our way to normalize talking about the vulva and celebrate vulva diversity. Only by learning about a subject, in this case a specific body part, can we normalize talking about it. How we think about vulvas influences how we feel when we see it.

The coloring book is for everyone who wants to learn more about the vulva and explore the female body in a new way - no matter your age or gender.

Click here to get the “Coloring book: Style your vulva” for free.

How can we be better at supporting menstruation education?

The first step is to break the silence and to start talking openly about menstruation. The way we talk about menstruation has a direct influence on how we as a society think about them too. There’s one question that is really important to ask ourselves: How do we actually talk about menstruation with other people (especially the younger generation)? Because language and words matter, especially when it comes to tabooed topics. It’s important that we’re creating safe spaces to talk about periods. These spaces may look very different, but it’s key for people to be able to ask their questions and share their personal experiences. We need to change the narrative from period shame to period literacy and celebration. 

Information about our first two online courses in English:

Our first English online course “Free bleeding: Menstruation without products” is live! And we’re launching our second English online course “Cycle awareness as a superpower” in August! 

Our online courses are the kind of resource I wish I would have had when I first learned about more about my body, menstruation, free bleeding and cycle awareness a couple of years ago. They’re a toolbox with all the information that could be helpful when embarking on this exciting journey towards your period, your body and ultimately yourself. The online courses are more than just an online course: They’re fun with a mix of videos, games, playlists or templates.