Artist Maritza Lugo worked with sex education speaker/author Danielle Sepulveresto bring attention to January as Cervical Cancer Awareness month. The resulting illustrations are beautiful, thought-provoking, and impactful. The headlines below show how the art and message have gone viral on a global level, reaching women across the world.
There is backlash, of course…many object to the use of Disney’s cartoon heroines as role models for sexual health care. But that fear is missing the point – this isn’t about just sex. Sexual health care is a part of female health care, and vice versa. Mainstream media presents our bodies for sexual consumption, but scorns the presentation of women as actual human beings with physical needs. Now, more than ever, we need to work towards ensuring all women’s access to affordable, stigma-free health care. This must include respect – respect for the female’s choices, respect for her needs, and respect for her body. Planned Parenthood is the number one resource in America for women to receive this exact type of care, regardless of their economic station or personal beliefs.
Some people will not visit Planned Parenthood, because they feel the organization goes against their values. That is a personal decision, and I would never try to take that choice away from anyone. There are other people, though, that don’t realize what kind of help they could get. They might not realize the type of help that they need. They might desperately want help with painful periods, HIV tests, or ensuring a healthy pregnancy. But even if the need and desire are there, societal attitudes can be a barrier. No one should feel ashamed about making their own personal health decisions, or seeking the (legal, safe, and legitimate) care that they need. So if illustrations like this help to normalize the idea of reproductive health, I’m all for it.
Relatable characters – fictional women that real life women have been admiring, disdaining, or debating for centuries – make an everyday issue memorable. If the princesses were real women, they would have real healthcare and family planning needs. The intended audience isn’t the young children that Disney movies are geared towards, but would it be so awful if it were? There are worst things in the world than children seeing representations of normal, accurate healthcare needs being addressed in a medical setting.
These slice of life images show us a side that Disney doesn’t address, sure, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We’ve already culturally accepted Disney princesses as modern entities. The scores of alternative versions of them – from pinup girl tattoos to zombies – prove this. So if we can imagine a modern Mulan, is it really a stretch to imagine her receiving an annual pap smear? If we’re already envisioning Belle as a hipster in a hoodie, why can’t she need Plan B? Maybe Aladdin gave Jasmine HPV, maybe Merida needs the pill to help regulate her periods, maybe Ariel is struggling with postpartum depression.
These characters are more often than not married, and many of them have gone on to become mothers in various sequels, spin-offs, and alternate universes. We can accept that they have sex, so we should be able to accept that they would have the same health needs as anyone else. So yeah, it’s pretty reasonable to assume that they might need the services that Planned Parenthood offers. I hope to see more of these illustrations, encompassing even more characters. It would be great to see Prince Charming stocking up on condoms, or Eric showing up for his prostate exam. That’s the other cool thing about Planned Parenthood – they help men just as much as women!