Hilde Atalanta is the creator and owner of The Vulva Gallery. The Vulva Gallery is an educational platform centered around illustrated vulva portraits and personal stories, and a wonderful, supportive and positive community – celebrating the vulva in all its diversity all over the world. Hilde Atalanta is an Amsterdam-based illustrator.
Hilde has a background in psychology and was attending a sexuality course and was really struck by the number of people having plastic surgery on their vulvas. They realized the lack of diversity in medical textbooks and in general. They started an IG account showing a vulva illustration every day. “A vulva a day keeps the plastic surgeon away.”
Let’s talk about the difference between the vulva and the vagina.
I realized that we need to get back to the real word, not all the nicknames from fruit and animals that we often use for the vulva. It took me awhile to get used to using the word vulva but I realized it’s just as common a word as ear and it sounds round and warm. It’s important to use the right word when we’re describing our body parts. We wouldn’t refer to our throat as mouth!
Tell us about your book!
I launched my book, A Celebration of Vulva Diversity about a year ago after working on it for a year and a half. I felt like in order to be better distributed, I needed to create a book that shows diversity, that has over 650 different illustrations based on real vulvas and over 140 real stories from people I’ve portrayed over the years. I worked with all kinds of sexual health professionals to debunk sexuality myths and educate.
The illustrations alone are amazing, but reading the stories is so helpful as well!
What has the response to the book been?
I’m receiving messages daily still from people all over the world. For example, a person from the UK just messaged me because she just cancelled her surgery after realizing that her vulva is completely normal after finding me!
Sharing diversity and stories can really affect people in such a positive way.
Let’s talk about diversity and inclusivity. What has been your experience and what has the response been?
Like snowflakes, no two vulvas are the same. I’ve painted over 1200 vulvas so far and no two are exactly alike. It’s like fingerprints, everyone has their own. I never get bored painting these portraits. There is beauty in being different. And we are so normal!
People are very worried about their vulva’s being “weird”. Most don’t realize that protruding labia is completely normal, and there are so many variations of pubic hair! We need to continue putting this diversity out there and helping people realize that they are normal.
What else would you like to share about your experience with The Vulva Gallery?
Something that has struck me over the years is how Gynecologists are often perpetuating these problems. I have had many people tell me it was their GYN that suggested “fixing” their labia to be more uniform. This gets to me. This gets to the core of why inclusive sex education is so important. When we provide proper sex education to kids recurrently as they grow we can prevent this kind of behavior. We have an opportunity to help educate.
When you’re a medical professional, you have a responsibility to protect patients from these invasive surgeries that can harm them!! The labia serve a purpose and are there for so much more than to just be looked at.
Hilde, what is your favorite way to manage your period?
I have a fairly easy period.
Where can we find you?
All people with vulvas are welcome to the gallery!