A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Did Somebody Say Vagina?

OMGSHUTUP

Okay, it’s a new day, and it’s time to lighten things up a bit. Ready? We’re going to talk about…no, not vaginas, per se, but WTF is it with some people. Here we go:

It never ceases to amaze me how uncomfortable some men are with the very idea of lady-parts and the functions thereof.

Take menstruation. Yeah, it’s messy and some people can’t deal with the idea of blood. But period blood is somehow different. It’s like my friend Amy said the other day when she read M’s story of sexism in the workplace, “I get the feeling that this executive VP would also refuse to go camping with a lady-person. You know. Because of bears.” Yes, this is still a thing with some people. Because the bear is going to be more attracted to a menstruating woman than to that steak you’re grilling or that deer you’re gutting next to the campfire. Bears want to steal your pic-a-nic basket, not your women.

He’s already got a girlfriend. That’s why he needs your pic-a-nic basket.

Ok, maybe that’s not really about the fact that it’s period blood (or maybe it is) but you can’t even bring up the fact that you have a period, or ovaries, or a uterus in front of some men without them blanching and looking like they might faint. My neighbor says a male friend recently admonished her for talking about her hormones when she was feeling crappy because EW!!! WIMMIN STUFF!!! And you should have seen the look on my friend’s boyfriend’s face the other day at the end of a trip when she tossed him a knotted plastic grocery bag and he let it fall to the floor without any attempt to catch it because OMG it had her underwear in it which had been stained with blood, rinsed, and wrapped securely for transport home. He laughed at himself right along with the rest of us, but there it was for everyone to see: EW.

With all this discomfort around the very fact of female anatomy, the day was going to come when one of us spoke out of turn and the menfolk had to put us in our place. And it did in mid-June when Michigan House Speaker James Bolger banned Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor for her use of the word “vagina” (claiming it was the “no means no” part that really disturbed him, but that apparently did not lead to an epiphany on his part). The Internet LOL’d and the word “vagina” became a trending topic on multiple social media platforms.

VaginaVaginaVagina

You can say that again.

And Lisa Brown performed what might have been the best Vagina Monologues ever on the steps of the Michigan State Capitol, after which Eve Ensler, the award-winning author of the play, said this:

I am over you being afraid of vaginas! I am over trans-vaginal wands and dudes who want to control my vagina but are afraid to know my vagina, respect my vagina. Who can’t even SAY vagina!

Gotta love a good backlash!

What is the basis of all this vagina fear? I would say it’s the natural human fear of “the other,” but, um, I don’t fear penises. Should I? Am I missing some crucial self-preservation instinct? I also don’t fear semen, and I don’t freak out or barf if I have to go near it, like I do with poop or vomit. Is it the blood? Maybe, in some cases, but if so, why the EW-don’t-talk-about-your-lady-business-around-me BS? That can’t all be about blood.

Luckily, some boys are raised with a rational understanding of the differences between men and women, and seemingly no fear of discussing the issue. Like this young man:

Did you watch it? You should really watch it. It’s disgustingly cute. Anyway, let’s hope brave souls like this one can help to normalize the use of anatomically correct terms and in doing so, diminish some of the fear around them. You, too, can help. Spread the word.

VAGINA!


Update:

From Jezebel:

A biology teacher from Idaho is under investigation by the state’s professional standards commission following his shocking attempt to teach his students what a vagina is. For those of you who were not raised by deviants, FYI: a vagina is a reproductive organ belonging to all female placental mammals. Once a month, human vaginas spew forth blood because they are agents of evil and decay. The only time a human child should ever see or think about a vagina is the moment that they slither out of it, and then never again.

Read more.

18 responses

  1. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide
    credit and sources back to your site? My blog is in the very same niche as
    yours and my visitors would definitely benefit from a
    lot of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this okay with
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    March 20, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    • You may! Thanks for reading!

      March 20, 2013 at 5:36 pm

  2. AND in the AWESOME dept., UK maxipad company Bodyform replies to a humorous Facebook rant from a man about their misleading advertising, and shows once again why the UK kicks US ass when it comes to advertising.

    http://jezebel.com/5952287/maxipad-company-replies-to-mans-facebook-rant-with-awe+inspiring-sarcasm

    October 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

  3. In related news:

    “Carefree has been forced to defend its new ad that shows a naked woman and uses the words “vaginal discharge”, saying it is a celebration of the female body.”

    http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/8499944/carefree-forced-to-defend-vagina-ad

    “Campaign spokeswoman Debbie Selikman said the company wanted to cut through the taboo surrounding the word vagina.

    “It’s the first time a major brand has had the guts to use real words, not euphemisms or diminutive terms,” Ms Selikman said.”

    July 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

  4. Oh, gosh, I should probably apologize to the person who found this post searching for “did somebody say steak?” Heh.

    July 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  5. I usually have a lot more to say, but I think you’ve all covered it quite well. It’s time for people to just get over it and deal with human anatomy and biology. But, as always, another excellent post!

    July 17, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    • Thanks, Elsie! I had a lot of fun with this one, and I’m loving the discussion! :D

      July 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm

  6. I <3 you, Mandaray.

    July 17, 2012 at 5:04 pm

  7. I, too, am pretty tired of the sense of shame our society instills in us about our own bodies, particularly a function I have no control over and would love to do without. I hate feeling ashamed and frightened every time I have to inform my boyfriend in some clever, round-a-bout way that I’m on my period. That and I’m really running out of clever euphemisms to use.

    Like you said, penises aren’t frightening. Why are vaginas? At the same time, if something is “wrong” with yours, (cue jokes about flabby vaginas if you’re a slut) or if you’re acting out, suddenly it’s everybody’s business. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been accused of “being on my period” or being a “PMSing bitch” whenever I get upset about something. (The “on my period” comments make me laugh because it’s *before* my period that I get cranky. Way to look up your biology, boys.)

    And yeah, I totally get it if you don’t like the blood part. My dad pretty much outright faints anytime he sees blood. But he’s perfectly fine with talk of hormones and cycles and cramps and what not. So is my boyfriend. In fact, my boyfriend is usually a lot less ashamed and freaked out than I am. (Or, at least, that’s how he acts.)

    I think that’s what I hate most of all: Being taught to expect that the opposite sex hates my monthly cycles from the get-go, assuming that they feel ashamed buying pads or tampons, assuming that the idea of my bleeding makes them nauseous and think I’m horrid. Considering my period is something I can’t stop or get rid of, then that’s a lot of fucking pressure!

    July 17, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    • OMG they’re marketing vagina-brightening creams to women in India! As if a dark-skinned woman shouldn’t expect to have a dark-skinned vagina. And what’s sick is that as long as people keep inventing stuff for us to be self-conscious about and products to treat these imaginary failings (here in the US, we now have deodorant that will brighten your armpit) we’ll keep thinking there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing.

      The shame around periods is something we really need to work on, partly, I think, by pushing back. This is a normal bodily function and until parents raise their boys with some understanding of the opposite sex, we need to treat it as such. I say we do away with euphemisms. Mark it on the calendar in red. Send boyfriends and husbands out for tampons, and invent a scoring system for how well they cope each time until it doesn’t bug them anymore. And for our own parts, remember that if anyone behaves in any way that seems engineered to make us feel shame about this messy, painful, inconvenient, TOTALLY NORMAL thing, then the shame should lie with them.

      July 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      • Haha! Oh, I love the idea of the score card, though I think in my case it would need to be more for me than the men in my life. Still, though, that mental image was hilarious. XD As usual, you are completely right. Shame is like guilt: Unless you’ve done something truly wrong, there is no need for it. (And even then, simply fix your mistake/bad choice or accept that you made it and move on.) But it’s so easy to feel and to accept it as your fault, so easy to just hide it instead of dragging it out into the sun. From now on I think I might try and do that more often. :)

        July 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

  8. TV sitcom writers often find easy targets for humor. As women, we tend to notice when they laugh at us. Sixty years ago, when I was a US TV-watching kid, sitcoms laughed at “women and their silliness” a whole lot more. These days they seem to focus far more on “how clueless men are.” Neither is all that funny to me when I think about stereotypes being formed in the minds of young people and reinforced in our society.

    July 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    • Oh yay, someone else who is equally sick of the “men are clueless and women are the ones controlling everything” trope in sitcoms these days. It makes me want to hurl whenever I see that. There’s a difference between being a feminist and putting men down the way we no longer wish to be put down.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    • Yes. This is a whole ‘nuther blog post. Looking forward to it. Might have to watch some crappy tv in preparation, though.

      July 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      • Nancy Harner DiMattia

        Yes, I’ve noticed a whole “adults are idiots, and kids know best” thing going on in commercials. Grates on ones nerves!

        March 27, 2013 at 1:41 pm

  9. I read somewhere that when boys and men hear on sitcoms and the like that women are batshit crazy during their period, they’re very likely to believe it (considering male-bodied folk have no periods to compare it to, this somewhat makes sense). If only the media hated periods less…

    July 17, 2012 at 3:18 am

    • It’s funny, because the women’s product ads always show us being so fabulous during our periods. Running marathons, climbing mountains…it’s like menstruation turns us into Wonder Woman! I wish. Now that I think about it, they never show women doing regular jobs wherein it might be really bad to have an accident or to even have to worry about it. Cop? Firefighter? Surgeon? These folks need some new ad writers.

      July 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      • Leah

        Tell a male friend you look sort of pale and sick today because you just had an IUD put in. That’ll end a conversation really quick. /headdesk Cervices! Gross!

        August 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm

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