Sometimes in life what we choose chooses us. An unusual partnership blossomed from a conversation between two women whose paths may otherwise never have crossed but for a mutual love of brutal transparency, dark humor and willingness to openly talk about vaginas instead of petticoats and cucumber sandwiches.
Jessica Biel happens to be as lovely on the inside as she is on the outside with a strong sense of self, immense integrity, and a fierce backbone. These are all characteristics needed to pull off a provocative campaign that includes such subject matter as anal sex, vaginal farts and the mysteries of disappearing condoms.
Nearly a year ago, I found myself at lunch with Jessica Biel discussing what has become the many misconceptions many women and girls, boys and men have about women’s bodies, and the ridiculous notion that women should somehow be ashamed of their bodies and how they function.
We discussed why, at a time when women are encouraged to be bold, take risks, and shatter glass ceilings, our society universally cringed when we engaged in any true talk about something as seemingly innocuous as our bodies. And we discussed how failing to engage in real conversations about reproductive health or effectively educate about the realities of the choices we make, meant that as a society, we are failing our women. In the United States of America 3.4 million pregnancies are unplanned every year. Shocking. So – we know that it is necessary to unabashedly tackle topics like birth control and the female body.
And so out of that lunch conversation, Jessica and I decided to launch the “If You Don’t Tell Them, Then Who Will?” campaign with the goal of destroying the stigma and taboos associated with our bodies and our health. We wanted it to motivate women to have those conversations, break down more barriers and create change. So we teamed up to do something different, something fun and something that felt relatable.
We came up with the tag line “No Topic is Off Limits” because we felt strongly that, in order to address and help women overcome these mores that are generations old, we needed to be authentic and approachable and modern. And last fall, we released a series of videos featuring Jessica, Whitney Cummings and Joy Bryant talking about the sometimes uncomfortable, myths, trials and tribulations of sex, periods and their own bodies. We hoped that removing stigmas would lead to more conversation, and more conversation would lead to seeking more information, and more information would lead to better choices.
And then a beautiful thing happened…People started writing to us to tell us their stories – men and women alike. We received many letters from mothers writing in about how grateful they were that the videos served as icebreakers to spur real conversations with their teenage daughters. We had one woman tell us – decades later – how she still vividly remembers the moment her cousin got her first period because they cried together thinking the bleeding meant she was dying. It’s a great and sad example of how a lack of knowledge can sometimes be incredibly scary. We had a sexual health educator tell us that she connected with the open and honest nature of the campaign.
We need to talk about our bodies, not just because they are here to stay and they are wonderful and capable of so much, but because we need to empower the next generation of women with the understanding that they can manage a fulfilling career and a family – if that’s what they choose. And whether they choose to scale mountains, or run companies, or cure cancer, their vaginas will go with them. Stating the obvious, a woman can keep another human life alive with her breast milk alone! So why doesn’t everyone want to talk about and understand the amazing creation that is a woman’s body?