Sounds innocent enough, right?
Not exactly. For some reason, the healthcare app myGP wanted people to share photos of cats .. that resembled their pubic hair.
“Bushy, bare, or halfway there,” the ad states, beside photos of three cats representing hair growth (or lack thereof) on vulvas. Or “undercarriage,” “flower,” and “bits,” as the ad so helpfully describes.
Twitter users were quick to point out how the ad lacks essential information tied to cervical health and could potentially confuse its intended audience.
Notable experts like Canadian gynecologist Dr. Jennifer Gunter also gave the ad’s messaging a thumbs down.
“This is truly awful. Really,” Gunter tweeted. “Delete it and do better.”
One clever account pointed out how weird it would be to make a similar ad about testicular cancer prevention.
Meant to be cheeky, the reason for the ad may be a particular pandemic health barrier.
In response to a critic, the company’s Twitter shared a related BBC article, along with a concerning claim: Three in five cisgender women polled were so ashamed of their pubic hair that they didn’t attend a cervical screening during lockdown.
It’s unclear where they got the statistic from, but body shame is a factor for some who book gynecologist appointments; a U.K. study of over 2,000 cisgender women found that a third skipped out on getting a pap smear if they didn’t get waxed or shave beforehand.
Watch: Everything you need to know about smear tests. Story continues after the video.
Hair removal isn’t technically needed for cervix-related appointments with doctors, who have seen pubic hair in clinical settings countless times.
“Vaginal grooming is your personal choice,” gynecologist Sherry Ross told Teen Vogue. “The main consideration for how to prepare for an exam is to simply be clean, so showering or using a vaginal hygiene wipe prior to your visit is suggested.”
As sexual health experts told CTV News, Canadians who are eligible shouldn’t postpone getting a cervical check-up because of the pandemic.
“The message should be loud and clear that critical screening practices absolutely should continue,” Dr. Lori Brotto told the outlet.
It’s possible to make cheeky cancer awareness ads
While myGP’s campaign fell flat, others have successfully drawn attention to their cancer prevention causes with humour.
Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds donned his Deadpool mask in 2016 to ask people to “touch themselves.” His helpful video show people how to check for potential physical signs of testicular cancer. And not, err, the other self-touching.
Moral of the story: There’s a right way to raise awareness for cancer prevention. And then there’s a wrong way. A very wrong way.
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