In IGCSE Biology lessons, students are taught about both the male and the female reproductive system. However, they are only taught about the internal female reproductive system, but not the external vagina and how to identify different parts of it, whereas they do learn about the external male reproductive system.
It is La Chât’s responsibility to teach its students of all genders about human biology. We learn about every other part of the body, so we deserve to learn about our entire body. Although IB Higher Level Biology learns about female anatomy, they should not be the only ones who learn about this fundamental part of normal life for billions of people.
An argument against showing Year 11 students the external female genitalia is that the external female reproductive system does not directly affect sexual reproduction. The only correlation that biology teachers can offer is that higher pleasure levels in females can lead to more sexual reproduction. Since this is not significant enough to the IGCSE board, it is not on the syllabus, so we do not cover it in our lessons. Female anatomy is hence supposed to be taught in sexual education classes.
This makes sense; if something is not on the IGCSE syllabus, there is not a direct need to teach it in a biology class, especially if it is being taught to students in another class. However, at La Chât, we never get shown pictures of vaginas and how to identify different parts of them in sexual education like we do for male genitalia in biology class. So, the argument to not teach students about female anatomy in their biology classes because they will learn it in sex ed becomes insignificant.
Even telling young girls, and boys, that female anatomy only needs to be taught in sexual education is problematic. The problem with this answer is that it suggests that the only parts of the female anatomy that need to be taught to students are the ones that are ‘practical’. It sends a message to students of any gender, at a crucial age in development and body awareness, that vaginas are only to be concerned about for those who have them, and that these parts of their bodies are irrelevant because they do not serve a direct purpose for reproduction.
Not only does this make girls’ bodies seem unimportant, it also sends the message that they are only sexual, and not a normal part of life that everyone should be educated about. There is a stigma that becomes associated with vaginas and women’s bodies, and it stems from situations like this.
It is dangerous to project this message onto young girls in the community because although the biology department can divert the teaching female anatomy onto sexual education, it is still not being taught in the right place, if at all. While teaching everyone about female anatomy in sexual education would be better than nothing, in our school, it should really be taught where it should be taught: biology classrooms, because vaginas are a part of the body which around 50% of the world’s population has.
The IGCSE syllabus cannot be changed, and that is not the school’s responsibility. What is their responsibility is to teach us things that matter, especially for something as universal as this. If only for one lesson at least, which the IGCSE classes definitely have the time for, it would sincerely help to change the level of awareness and confidence of both people with vaginas, and those without, to help understand human anatomy in a non-stigmatized atmosphere where learning should occur: the classroom.
written by: Maia Filler