Why has Barbie not been taken off the shelves? When I was growing up everyone used to say that Barbie’s boobs were so big that if she was real she would topple over. Now I’m no good at physics so I’m not sure whether that’s really true, but the girl does love her stilettoes so I guess it could be. As well as her inconceivably tiny waist and never-ending thigh gap, the one thing that really irks me about this plastic woman is her unrealistic nether region. Is Barbie the reason that last year 156 girls under the age of 15 had labiaplasty performed on the NHS?
If you need to revise your female anatomy, or want a quick summary of what labiaplasty actually means, check out my latest YouTube video…
Did 156 teenage girls really need their labia trimming? And why has the number of these operations performed on women over 18 risen faster than any other cosmetic procedure in the last few years. There are several reasons to perform labiaplasty. Firstly to reduce the size of the labia minora because they cause discomfort during exercise, sex or other physical activity. Secondly to remove areas containing lumps, bumps or other areas of abnormal or diseases tissue. And finally for cosmetic reasons, which really are not meant to be done on the NHS, but appeared to be the focus of the BBC report on this procedure in teenage girls. The labia minora usually grow first during puberty, so it would be normal for these to suddenly appear to hang down slightly, before the labia majora catch up, which is a prime reason why teenagers should not be having this op performed. Secondly the size of the labia majora is largely dictated by the fat content underneath the skin, so someone who is very slim may feel their labia minora are over-sized due to comparatively smaller labia majora. The optimist in me would like to think that the number of cases reported by the BBC in teenagers, is in fact an over-exaggeration because it has been derived from computer coding, which would not differentiate the number of procedures according to the reason that they were performed, although it’s impossible to find out.
From my (ahem…sometimes excessive) time spent on social media I think that the sudden interest in ‘neatening up’ ones labia may be an unpleasant offshoot of the current obsession with aesthetic perfection. There are numerous plastic surgeons around the world advertising labiaplasty as a ‘quick and simple procedure to make your labia more symmetrical/neat and tidy etc…’ As someone who sees more than her fair share of labia on a daily basis, I can tell you there is no such thing as normal, and certainly no such thing as symmetrical. Symmetry is overrated, as there is no other body part that is truly symmetrical. We’ve all got one foot that’s bigger than the other; it’s the same with labia. It’s also normal for your labia minora to be visible on the outside, although Barbie and the porn industry may tell you otherwise, as this may be the only time women see other women’s labia, so the perception of ‘normality’ is grossly skewed. And trust me; it’s not like popping into the hairdressers for a quick fringe trim on your lunch break. This is proper surgery that very few women need to have done. I saw a very interesting BBC short documentary, which is definitely worth a watch if you want to know more.
There are also loads of great vulva/labia artists out there on instagram such as @the.vulva.gallery @joelizaharrison @vulva_portraits @vagina_museum…the list is endless, but I think these are definitely worth checking out, because understanding what is normal is the first step towards personal acceptance.