Month: July 2015

Let’s Talk About Vaginas

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No, but seriously; let’s. We really don’t talk about them enough—especially in a non-sexual context. The word feels strange to write, and even stranger to say out loud. Even my phone corrects “vagina” to “cagina”, as if an inanimate object could also feel awkward. Well, that taboo ends here! This is an important issue that could save your life—and a lot of young women really don’t have a clue about it. Now that is awkward.

Okay, brace yourselves, ladies (and any men who were unknowingly lured into reading this through the word “vagina”) here it comes: pap smears. What a terrible name. Smear. Smear. They really don’t make it sound appealing, do they? But in all honesty, It’s not that bad. The procedure takes probably less than thirty seconds in all, and it doesn’t hurt even slightly.

You can get a pap smear by booking in an appointment with your doctor, or at a women’s health clinic. Basically, they take you into a private room, just like any other doctor’s visit, and ask you to remove your underwear and lie on an examination bed. This bit is rather awkward, but remember: they are trained professionals and have probably seen thousands of vaginas in their time. They use a hard plastic tool called a speculum (not to be confused with a spatula) in order for them to see your cervix. From there, they take a quick sample of the cells and send them away for testing. And then you’re done!

Now, I would definitely recommend seeing a female doctor—at least for your first time. It’s much less awkward. My usual doctor is male, and I’m also friends with his daughter. The vagina jokes he made certainly didn’t make me feel more comfortable. The female doctor I sought out, however, was kind and made general conversation and even gave me some information for this article.

So, what the Pap smear actually does is test for any abnormalities in the cells around your cervix which can eventually lead to cervical cancer, as well as testing for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is present in 99.7% of cervical cancer cases. HPV, which is an infection of the skin around think, moist linings of the body (like the nose, mouth, throat and genital) results from close skin contact, isn’t something to be overly concerned about: 4 out of 5 people will have it in their lives, mostly with no symptoms. Your body will usually clear it naturally in 1-2 years, but in some cases, it can stay longer and lead to cervical cancer.

According to the Cancer Council, about 1 in 10 Pap smears reveal abnormalities, though less than 1% of these abnormalities lead to cervical cancer. Even so, all women, regardless of age, sexual orientation or number of partners, should be tested every two years from the ages of 18-70 (or younger,  depending on what age she became sexually active).

In 2017, based on recommendations from the Medical Services Advisory Committee, the Australian Government will make some changes to the Pap test. Women aged between 25 and 74 will undertake a HPV test every five years, which may also include various other tests. These changes are estimated to reduce the number of cancer cases by a further 15%. Hooray!

However, until then, Pap tests are absolutely necessary. Soldier through that awkwardness, and it could potentially save your life! Eighty per cent of women who develop cervical cancer had not had regular check-ups. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers with a simple test—these tests have halved the mortality rate. Can you really ignore that?

Listen to your vagina, and don’t be afraid to talk about any problems you may have, no matter how seemingly miniscule. Don’t become another statistic because you were too embarrassed to ask. After all, happy vagina, happy life. Preach it, ladies!

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition–yes, yes and more yes!

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If you are yet to experience the magnificence of the Definitive Edition of Tomb Raider, you’re seriously missing out. Better yet, since it was released in 2013, it is fairly affordable—you can get it from EB games from around $36-47, depending on whether you want a new or pre-owned copy. This game is absolutely fantastic, and you can sleep well knowing your money was spent on possibly the best game that features an awesome female action hero.

The story follows the story of Lara Croft, an ambitious archaeology graduate, through a game of survival and instincts in the fictional lost island of Yamatai, just off the coast of Japan.  Croft, following in the footsteps of her highly-esteemed and late archaeologist father, believes she’s cracked the mystery of Yamatai and their benevolent Sun Queen, Hemiko. However, when wild weather suddenly appears out of nowhere, Lara Croft and her team are shipwrecked and must fight for their lives against the untamed wilderness, and a crazed, sacrificial cult—the Solari Brotherhood— bent on slaying anyone who dare oppose them.

This Lara Croft shows her emotions. We see her cry, freak out, and try to reason with her assailants before she kills them. She shows that being a woman is not a weakness, nor are emotions a weakness.

The quality of the Tomb Raider games have come a long way since their release in 1996—this game is no exception, with fantastic graphics and easy-to-learn gameplay. Furthermore, the characterisation of Lara Croft is very pro-feminism: while she is a gorgeous woman (based on model Megan Farquhar) it is not her looks that at all contribute to her freedom. No, Croft is brilliant because of her mind, her survival instincts and dedication to those she loves even in the face of grave danger. Croft shows compassion, intelligence and that emotions are okay; they can be conquered. I especially liked the fact that, despite her looks, the game does not call any unnecessary attention to her breasts or other female body parts that are typically sexualised. The only thing I can criticise, honestly, is her hair—it’s always perfect, despite the weather or gruesome occurrences. I’m totally jealous my hair isn’t like that. Croft begins this rebooted origin story as a startled, unexperienced woman, before conquering her own fears and becoming a badass warrior, unlocking the strong woman within.

Well, I can’t say i’ve ever played a game where you’re literally thrown into pools of bood. Did someone say “dead bodies everywhere”?

Surprisingly, the game actually features quite a bit of gore—as one would expect with a sacrificial, bloody cult and an ancient merciless Sun Queen. Tomb Raider is by no means a “fluffy” female video game. It’s gory, action-packed and kick-ass! Lara Croft is the ultimate female action figure.

I rate this game a 4 out of 5 stars. My only complaint? I wish it lasted longer!