It’s just… a little thrush.

28 May

What’s the difference between a vagina and a toe?

About $17 apparently.

See, if you have a fungal infection between your toes you can go to the supermarket and get a tube of clotrimazole anti-fungal cream for about eight bucks. If that fungal infection happens to be on your vulva or in your vagina, you’re going to have to go to the chemist, ask nicely and pay $25.

Clotrimazole is sold under a number of brands, including as an athlete’s food treatment and a vaginal thrush treatment. Both products are sold in the same concentration (10mg/g). The only difference is where you apply them. It is, essentially, a vagina tax.

Canesten for vaginas and Canesten for feet tubes side by side.

What bothers me more though is the on the shelf/over the counter distinction. We are, apparently, allowed to treat the skin on our feet but not the skin on our clunges without first seeking advice from a pharmacist.

Vaginal thrush isn’t rare or even interesting. It happens all the freakin time to most women. It’s easy to identify and easy to treat if you get in early.

So, this week after feeling the familiar twinge in my twat, I took myself off  to the chemist. At the prescription desk I asked for a tube of Canesten. I ask for the brand because that tells them that I’m a woman who knows what she wants and has no time to spare. I’ve never asked for this in a patient tone. Who can be patient when they’re standing in a shop with an itchy snatch?

In reply, the pharmacy assistant — in a totally symbolic white lab coat — asked what symptoms I’d been having. I replied “thrush-like symptoms. Like when you have thrush”. She leaned in and whispered “I just have to check that it is actually thrush.”

I sighed. I searched my soul for patience. I explained that I was, as the owner of the vulva in question, perfectly qualified to diagnose my own condition, and that since I’m an adult I shouldn’t have to be condescended to just because the treatment I’m seeking is for my ladyparts. She nodded and handed over the tiny overpriced tube.

There is, of course, an argument for checking that the symptoms aren’t being misdiagnosed. Snatches can be itchy for all kinds of reasons and customers are not doctors. But neither are pharmacy assistants.

The trouble is that on this particular trip to Chemist Warehouse, I could have diagnosed and treated all manner of conditions. I could have pumped myself with iron supplements because I was feeling tired, or codeine because I had a headache. I could have taken a plethora of alternative ‘natural’ remedies straight up to the counter without so much as a raised eyebrow.

If you’re a qualified professional by all means help me make decisions about my health. Be evidence based, be respectful. But don’t ask whether or not I can be trusted with a tube of tinea cream and my own cunt.

In case anyone questions your right to vaginal determination, I’ve made up a license you can carry. Go forth and medicate!


In preparing this post I asked Twitter to name their favourite synonyms for vulva and vagina. Here they are:

  • Ham wallet (naturally)
  • Baby cannon
  • Sprog locker
  • Breakfast of champions
  • Bearded clam
  • Wizard’s sleave
  • Willy warmer



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