by Kristina Murkett
Friday, 29
January 2021
Spotted
07:00

A public health campaign based on a pussy pun — really?

MyGP's new campaign has got people talking for all the wrong reasons
by Kristina Murkett
Leave the juvenile euphemisms to the sitcoms. Credit: Getty

Attendance for smear tests is at a 19 year low. According to the BBC, in April and May last year 600,000 tests failed to go ahead, adding to the backlog of 1.5 million appointments missed annually. Each year initiatives are launched to try and encourage women to attend, ranging from scare tactics of shaved heads and don’t regret it later warnings to infantilising slogans like “don’t be a diva, it’s only a beaver!”

This year’s campaign by MyGP is firmly in the latter camp: a bizarre call to arms for women to post pictures of their “furry friends” in order to normalise the fact that many of us have had to “abandon our usual grooming regimes” and so may feel embarrassed about revealing our “bits”. Oh, and by “furry friends” they mean cats: “long emblematic of our nether regions”. Yes, it’s a public health campaign based on a pussy pun.

You might find this response to a public health issue patronising, inappropriate or downright cringeworthy, but more importantly it misses the mark. Research by the cancer charity Eve Appeal suggests one in three women missed their smear tests last year because of fears relating to Covid-19 and almost half of BAME women surveyed said they definitely would not attend at the moment. Even before the pandemic one in four women failed to book a test when contacted, despite the fact that cervical cancer rates have risen sharply since 2004, with a 54% increase amongst 24-29 year olds. These, not superficial worries about aesthetics, are the main concern.

MyGP’s campaign sidesteps all this, as well as the fear, pain, trauma, or ignorance that prevents women attending screenings, and arguably reinforces the embarrassment many women feel in the process. Juvenile euphemisms like “flower” and “undercarriage” only worsen the stigma around talking about female gynaecological health openly. People need to be comfortable using the correct anatomical terms, not coy campaigns featuring pussies.

A parody tweet (below) reimagining the ad as one for testicular cancer screening (with the hashtag #mychickenballs) rather neatly sums up not only how ridiculous the campaign is, but also how often we see campaigns with a more belittling tone directed at women than men. Posters like “you’ll wax your bikini line but you won’t get a smear” inadvertently blame women by making their embarrassment seem unfounded or like little more than vanity.

https://twitter.com/iseult/status/1353052285560094725?s=20

MyGP call their campaign “tongue in cheek” and saying that it has got people talking, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. It’s not impossible for a public health campaign to be hard-hitting without being all doom and gloom; Deadpool’s “Gentlemen, touch yourselves tonight” video is a great example of how to be both entertaining and informative, and address self-consciousness without shaming.

With thousands of women diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and up to 93% of these cases preventable, ads that sound like they’ve been written by Jay from The Inbetweeners simply don’t cut it.

Join the discussion


  • Actually, “Don’t be a diva, it’s only a beaver” is one of the most hilarious things I’ve heard for some time!

  • Transwomen, with or without a p***s, are taking offence at the word women.
    well, of course, they are. It’s what they do when confronted by reality. In sane times, having a p***s disqualified anyone from being considered to be a woman.

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