If you’re into clickbait journalism, you may have read earlier this month about a grad student at the University of Wisconsin who made yogurt using her own vaginal flora.
It’s not the most appetizing premise, but hear me out.
Cecilia Westbrook indeed made yogurt with her own “jazz juice.” But she isn’t sick, and she isn’t insane.
I know, because she’s a friend of mine.
Unfortunately, what began as a fun experiment for her and her friend, Janet Jay — author of the original Motherboard article — wound up receiving undue scorn. The university, currently under fire from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, may receive more punishing blows to its budget from the state due to the minor uproar, despite the fact Westbrook performed the experiment on her own time.
Even worse, as their story received international attention, both Westbrook and Jay have endured personal attacks from strangers.
It pisses me off.
I see the whole response to what was simply a fun process as a sad reminder of our society’s conscience.
I don’t find what Westbrook did disgusting. I think it’s hilarious, for one, and secondly, it shows off what a brilliant, inquisitive mind can do to further research into the female body.
“She didn’t set out to do this as some feminist coup that would give her a soapbox,” Jay told me. “She did it because she’s a scientist and she’s curious.”
Society’s branding of Westbrook as some crazy vagina-witch shows how uncomfortable we are with female anatomy.
“I’ve learned that if you say the word ‘vagina,’ some people just freak out,” Jay said.
I personally find that insane. After all, women comprise half the world.
Yet we’re in an age in which feminism has become something of an insult, which in itself is more outrageous than a funny science experiment.
“Is she a feminist? Absolutely,” Jay said. “But the amount of focus that’s been given to her feminism as opposed to her science and curiosity is pretty overwhelming.”
Furthermore, women, like Westbrook, are still discouraged from entering scientific fields, partly due to its boys’-club status.
We need more Westbrooks in the sciences. Hell, we need more Westbrooks in the world.
I hope that work like Westbrook’s becomes more acceptable in society.
It’s 2015, after all. We should be discovering new things every day about everything we can, especially about ourselves and our bodies.
And more women should be encouraged to wear lab coats and explore women’s issues.
I not only wholeheartedly endorse what Westbrook did; I’m proud of her experiment, and I’m proud to call her my friend.