*WARNING: this post contains an image of a cervix. Please be mindful if you are not in private.*
I stumbled upon The Beautiful Cervix Project a few years ago…. It’s a grassroots movement celebrating the beauty and intricacies of women’s bodies and fertility! The website provides accessible information about women’s fertility and menstrual cycles, and showcases photographs documenting changes in the cervix and cervical fluid throughout the cycle.
The Beautiful Cervix Project teaches cervical self-exam and fertility awareness as a revolutionary path of promoting respect, confidence, and health. We believe that this form of self-empowerment and education will help contradict shame and misinformation around women’s reproductive health and choices, affecting positive change from the personal to global levels.
I’ve been in contact with the author/owner of the site, and have asked her a few questions.
I first stumbled upon the beautiful cervix project some years ago. I admit I hadn’t looked at the site for a while, and it is completely different! You’ve grown. You’ve empowered so many women. What’s been your experience in sharing this information?
About 5 years ago, I photographed my own cervix every day for a menstrual cycle when I first began learning about Fertility Awareness, which I was using as natural birth control. Cervical self-exam has been happening for decades in feminist circles, but it seemed no one had posted an entire cycle on the Internet. The site quickly became popular with women trying to conceive, medical students, pregnant women, women with abnormal pap smears, and teenagers curious about their development.
Initially, I’d say the response was about 50% encouraging and 50% offended –from men and women on both sides. At first, it was really hard not to take the negative comments personally – about how perverted, disgusting, or slutty I was for doing this project. Though I felt vulnerable, I realized that whenever you put something out into the world that is powerful, people are going to react strongly one way or another. I can see that the insulting comments come from fear – fear of knowledge, fear of fertility, fear of women’s bodies. I only approve and post the positive comments, which seems to have overwhelmed the negative site traffic and now I get much less critical feedback. Now the website features many galleries of cervices, representing a greater variety of experience (ie cervices that have given birth, are post-menopausal, have a polyp, etc). So many women (and men) have no idea about their fertility cycles and cervical fluid – and neither did I until a few years ago. It is encouraging that millions of people around the world have seen this website!
It seems many women are very disconnected from their reproductive organs – your site allows for detailed explanation and images of what the cervix does each month – are women astounded to learn of this?
Absolutely! Many women don’t really know what their cervix is, where it is, or why it is important. Lots of the women are relieved to learn that the ‘symptoms’ (changes in cervical fluid) they’ve been experiencing each month are normal patterns and not signs of infection or cancer. For women learning to track their cycles using Fertility Awareness Methods, the images expand upon what they’ve read in a book. Even medical and nursing students say the images increase their clinical understanding. Many women say they wish they had learned this information earlier in their lives – that it would have prevented a lot of anxiety, disconnection, and confusion about their bodies and sexuality.
Do you find it helps them reconnect?
Yes! Most women are grateful to have honest information about their bodies. Some women are initially squeamish, but that is normal when we see/do something new, especially if it contradicts our upbringing and cultural values, which is often ignorant or shaming of women’s bodies. Women have used the images to help them conceive, to imagine dilation during labor, to visualize healing from HPV or a cervical surgery, and to deepen their connection with their sexuality.
It’s a massive deal to photograph your cervix for the wide world to see, however I think it is also empowering – has this been what you have found with the women who connect with you? How does the experience impact them?
First of all, I make it very clear to the women who send me photographs that I will post them anonymously, which I think gives them more confidence. Some women share from a more clinical attitude and some more as a spiritual or artistic offering. As women, we need each others stories and experiences to enrich our own; most submit photos because they feel empathy for their sister across the globe sitting in front of her computer with a question or concern about her own cervix. It is empowering to know that an intimate part of you will help other women – to be the drop that starts the empowerment ripple effect. Sharing the images can be very healing.
What do you find women are most interested in when watching their cervix?
Many women appreciate the subtle ways their bodies communicate with them, becoming in tune with how the uterus moves slightly in the pelvis and how the texture of the cervix gives them accurate information about their fertility. It is fascinating to actually see the source of the fluid changes throughout the cycle, to watch it seep out. Looking at your own cervix is like staring into the portal of creation
What is your message to my readers if they only heard one thing today?
Love thy Cervix!!! Take a look around the site and get familiar with the messages your body (and your lady parts) are sharing with you each and every day. Learning what you body is communicating to you and using it to connect with your fertility can be a very powerful and useful tool. I look forward to hearing some of your courteous comments!