Baltimore-based Vanessa Geffrard is the founder of Vagesteem, an initiative that, among other things, teaches women how to take care of their bodies, while educating them about body confidence. Join me as its director, CEO and founder gives a more detailed overview of how it came about.
Kreyolicious: I think Vag Esteem is such a cool name for your initiative. Why that name?
Vanessa Geffrard: I like it too. [Laughter] So first things first, VagEsteem is workshop series and podcast that encourages good and healthy sex through courageous conversations. I started the workshop series in my home with friends and friends of friends in 2014 and then the workshops outgrew my home. When I first started, I just had a generic name, like “Sex Talks at Vanessa’s House”, but I created a series and I needed to name to name my goal, which was to help women build their “vaginal” self- esteem and voila, VagEsteem was born! In 2016, I started the VagEsteem podcast to help reach more people. All in all, VagEsteem is the concept by which one builds their confidence of/in their vulva and vagina. I believe that this confidence leads to a healthy and satisfying sex life.
Kreyolicious: At the core of the organization is self-care and preservation. Are these things that were taught to you or…
Vanessa Geffrard: Great question! This made me think for a minute…I think self-care and self preservation were something that I picked up. Being Haitian, my parents are extremely hard workers and that value has been instilled in me, but something I felt like my parents missed was incorporating self- care into their daily routines. My parents always let loose, had fun, and we vacationed (which is a form of self care for myself), however I try to take this a step further by incorporating these things in my lifestyle and my routine, everyday. I think I realized that if we don’t take care of ourselves, it serves no purpose. We’re killing ourselves at work, but guess what- when we’re too sick to work, our jobs have no problem replacing us! We are important and we have to find a balance between that care and the work.
Kreyolicious: One of the things that Vagesteem does is bring to light misogyny not to mention expose chauvinism. On social media, you’re constantly posting things like the price going up on meds meant to aid women who experience pain during intimate moments to mundane comments about virginity? Thoughts?
You know me! You really know me! [Laughter] I feel seen! First, I love us. I love my work. My life’s work and calling is education, and it just so happens I love sex/sexual health/sexuality education. Everyday in my work, I try to dispel myths about sex, hold space for taboo/hard conversations, conversations that people want to have but can’t- conversations I wanted to have but couldn’t growing up. As a Haitian woman who went to Catholic school from grades 3-12 and not having conversations about sex at home. I was often operating out of fear, which could have resulted in bad consequences. I don’t want anyone to feel that. A lot of my work is dispelling myths- often rooted in misogyny. When I have people in classes from young girls to older women questioning their worthiness as it relates to their viriginity, “body counts”, the decision to carry or not condoms- without any regard for themselves… that’s rooted in what our society says, treats, and believes about women. I want us to be empowered, educated, and know that we’re wonderful and that’s what I try and use my platform to do.
I created the , Instagram, and workshops to encourage women to engage in courageous conversations about sex, love, relationships, sexuality, and everything in between. In my work, I realize that women, especially women of color, do not always have a platform to discuss these issues. These conversations are either held in private with one other person and shushed from larger society. Black and women of color’s sexuality is exploited, shamed, and not seen as mainstream. I want to elevate the message that women are amazing, wonderful, complicated, sexual and multi-faceted beings who deserve to be heard and to feel good about themselves and their curiosities in a non-judgmental space. I honestly believe that when women feel good about themselves- they take care of themselves, their bodies, their health and put their best interests first. This is why I speak up and I will continue to go in on power imbalance, misogyny, and more.
Kreyolicious: What would you say is Vagesteem’s mission for the next 3-5 years?
My mission for VagEsteem is to continue to grow. VagEsteem is currently on a college tour and I’d love to go to more campuses and engage in more courageous conversations. I hope that I continue learning from this process of creating and producing a podcast, keep learning and growing my craft, growing an engaged audience. I hope that conversations about sex and sexuality become normalized and I hope that my listeners envision, practice, and are empowered to have healthier and better sex lives and conversations. A VagEsteem book is in the future and more speaking engagements.
to visit the VAGESTEEM website.