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Are You Washing Your Vagina Correctly? You Sure?

You probably are but just in case...

Women's Health

Last fall, I wrote an article entitled, "Did You Know There's A Right & A Wrong Way To Take A Bath?" The objective was not to be out here assuming that grown ass women don't know how to clean themselves. It's just that, sometimes it's the little things that we do—or don't do—that can actually cause bigger problems along the way when it comes to cleanliness and overall hygiene.

That's why I thought it would also be a good idea to touch on how important it is to make sure that we're all taking care of, what I oftentimes encourage my love nieces to call, their "treasure box". Because, the reality is, while a lot of us find ourselves having a super sensitive vagina or even an infection that we can't get to the root cause of, many times it was triggered by the fact that, while we meant well, we simply weren't cleaning our va-jay-jay as properly as we should have. So, in the effort to keep you and "yours" clean and comfortable, here are some washing tips to always keep in mind.

Remember: Your Vagina and Vulva Are Two Different Things

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Yeeeeeah. I have no idea who started the whole notion that the word "vagina" speaks for everything that is going on when it comes to our genitalia area because, technically, that isn't right. Our vagina is actually the muscular inner tube that starts at the end of our vulva and extends all the way up to our cervix (which is right in front of our uterus). Meanwhile, our vulva is the external part of our genitalia. It consists of our clitoris, our labia majora (the outside of our lips) and labia minora (the inside of our lips), along with our vestibule (the opening of our vagina) and our urethral meatus (which is the opening of our urethra, because you know that we pee out of a different hole…right?). And, when it comes to washing our lower region, it's not the vagina that needs to be cleaned; it's our vulva (and only parts of it). This brings me to my next point.

Your Vagina Is Totally Self-Cleaning

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You might've heard that your vagina is self-cleaning and that is absolutely true. The reason why I'm being intentional about reiterating this point is because there still seem to be way too many people who are consumed with douching and steaming their va-jay-jay when their vagina doesn't need any of that.

When discharge is healthy, it's designed to carry out the dead cells and bacteria that may be inside of your vagina. So, when you do things like douche or steam, not only can that throw the pH balance of your vagina off (which can lead to a killer yeast infection), but steaming could result in literally burning your vagina (one woman actually got second-degree burns from vaginal steaming) too.

And how do you know if your discharge is leaning towards the unhealthy side? For starters, if it's clear, white or off-white and you're noticing about 1-2 teaspoons of it coming out a day, you should be all set. Another sign is if your discharge isn't clumpy, itching and/or irritating. If anything is contrary to what I just said, don't assume that some Summer's Eve or a vaginal steam session is gonna clear things up. It's much smarter to make an appointment with your physician, so that they can diagnose what is really going on with you. It could be a yeast infection. It could be a bout of bacterial vaginosis. It could be that a new sex partner has altered your pH balance. It could be an STD. The only way you're gonna know for sure is if a professional tells you what's up. Let them.

How Do You Wash Your Vulva, Anyway?

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Now when it comes to actually cleaning your vulva, since it isn't self-cleaning like your vagina is yes, you should wash it. But here's the thing—you still don't actually have to use soap. Our vulva area is pretty sensitive, so soaking in the tub or washing with a clean washcloth with warm water can do your vulva good more than you would probably think. But if you absolutely cannot imagine keeping soap away from your outer and inner lips, make sure that you go with the kind of soap that is mild and unscented. It's also important that you swap out your washcloth, every 3-4th wash and that you gently open up the folds of your vulva so that you can get into the crevices of the outer part of that part of your genitalia. Also, just like when you wipe after using the bathroom, make sure that you go from front to back while cleansing your vulva. Just like going the opposite direction can lead to irritation or a mild infection when you wipe, the same thing can happen when you wash.

As far as your anus goes, believe it or not, there are soaps out in the universe that are specifically for it; the kind that will clean your anal area without drying it out. One is Honest's Soothing Bottom Wash. Another comes in a spray form; it's by Indigo Wild and it's called Zum Bum.

Leave Feminine Sprays and Washes Alone

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Whatever you do—and this really can't be stated enough—please leave all of the feminine sprays and washes completely alone.

First of all, your vagina wasn't created to smell like a rose garden or a candy store. In fact, men are naturally drawn to the scent that your va-jay-jay naturally creates. Secondly, just like scented soaps can piss your vulva off, so can all of those vaginal products that promise to make you feel "fresher". And third, there are certain chemicals that are in a lot of commercial products that could prove to be harmful to your vulva and/or vagina if you consistently use them over time.

So, what if you want to add a little "extra" to your vulva area? I actually wrote an article a while back that features some DIY vaginal wash recipes (you can check it out here). Beyond that, adding 1-2 drops of lavender oil per every ¾ cup of coconut oil can be a nice moisturizer for the mound of your vulva (the top part where most of your pubic hair is…or would be) and inner thighs. Not only does it smell amazing, but both lavender and coconut oil contain antifungal properties too. Avoid putting the oil near your vaginal opening, though. Lavender oil is pretty potent; it is prone to cause a significant amount of stinging if applied internally.

If There’s a (Strange) Odor, Again, See Your Doctor

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Depending on your diet, the time of month that it is for your cycle, when you last had sex and the way that you're made up, your vagina (I'm saying that because it's mostly the discharge that creates whatever scent your genitalia's got) is going to range in smell from lightly sweet to slightly sour to maybe even a little coppery (some guys even describe the taste of vaginas as being the hint of a penny). All of this is fine and perfectly normal. When you should be concerned is if your vagina has a strong fishy, ammonia or rotten (unless you're on your cycle and it's been a minute since you've changed your pad or tampon) scent and/or it's so pungent that people around you can smell you. If that is the case, nothing in this article is going to keep the power of that type of odor away. Something is "off". You need to see your doctor.

Welp. That's what I've got for y'all on this topic. Nothing earth-shattering but hopefully relevant enough to keep your vagina's pH right, your vulva fresh and you feeling confident about them both. Amen? Amen, chile.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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