4.04.2009

Vagina Anyone?

As I was walking through a book store, I came across a little girl (about 5) gazing in confusion at a book intended to teach young children about sex.

The mother had a great opportunity here, a chance to instill a healthy perspective of body parts and human acts... This exchange warranted a second glance and a blog post:

"Mommy, do I have a penis?" (I can only assume she asked what the thing on the cartoon of a naked boy was and the mother responded 'a penis')...

"No, honey," she replied, "you have a ta-ta."

Oooooo-kay?!

Boys have penis', and girls have fluffy ballerina skirts?! oh wait, that is a tu-tu.. but I think you catch my drift.

I have to admit, it irked me.

What is so wrong with our culture that it is ok to simply say what it is when it comes to male parts, but, when it comes to the feminine equivalent, we have to make 'cutsie' names out of them.. as if our plumbing was too shameful to call it what it is....

We have vaginas. VAGINAS.

Which got me to thinking and asking some of my internet circles... how well do we know our body parts?

I can guarantee you that the majority of us know what a scrotum is, a penis, a foreskin, testes, and even, for many of us, a vas deferens... but when it comes to a woman's eternal flower?

You would not believe how many women I have encountered have no idea what the names of their body parts are...

Our vaginas are not pee-pees, they are not ta-tas or vajay-jays... we have vaginas. Is it really such a dirty word?

The word vagina comes from a latin term meaning 'sheath'.. we have a sleeve of protection in which to protect our parter's... umm... swords? Wow. That is powerful and sexy, in my opinion.

I am not saying to not have terms of endearment for your femininity, but make sure that it gives due diligence to the power, beauty, and femininity of our bodies... not belittling and shaming it into a child's term.

I am proud of my vagina and am tired of it being a dirty word that yet another generation of women will find shameful to utter to their young daughters. Give me some other terms, and thoughts, on our sexual anatomy that encourages a healthy body image...

33 comments:

Shotgun Mary said...

I refuse to call my vagina anything other than what it is, a VAGINA. I'm sure one day I'll have to deal with backlash from some source when my daughter (still in-utero) announces she has a vagina in polite company. Somewhere, once long ago, I came across a publication that named the various labial forms. The one with the largest labia minora that protruded far past the labia majora was called a "full blown rose." I always thought that was a lovely way to put it. Its a shame that many women who have this "full blown rose" are often ashamed of it and are in some cases even encouraged to get cosmetic surgery. The one pet peeve I've always had in naming vaginas is the c-word. In my sophomore feminist theory class we were told that we needed a "cunt positive" attitude. The idea was if we owned the word then it couldn't hurt us. We were encouraged to use it when referring to our vaginas. I think the word is vulgar when men use it and just as vulgar when women do the same.

MamaVee said...

My pet peeve is "Birth Canal". Every time I hear someone say that I say "Just say "vagina", people." The Suez has a canal, Panama has a canal, canals are for boats, and there ain't no boats coming out of my VAGINA, thank you very much.

A friend of mine taught her daughter the word "Duckie" for her vagina. At pre-school, her daughter went to the teacher and said "Braiden keeps trying to touch my duckie" and the teacher said "Honey, you should share your duckie with Braiden."

Gasp.

Fortunately for my friends daughter, the teacher followed up with, "what duckie are you talking about?" when she noticed the the girl didn't actually have a duckie toy and she figured it out, Belittling and shaming, as you say, the terms for our bodies puts small children at risk if it is their only vocabulary.

Kim said...

I absolutely agree with this. It is funny for me, as a Mother of 2 girls and 1 boy, that I have no problem saying penis, but vagina gets caught in my throat. Ok, did, but now it doesn't, I'm so used to saying it and vulva on a daily basis. I *do* have a hard time telling my daughter not to play with her clitoris when she's in the bathtub with her brother. Yeah...I haven't introduced that word yet ;)
I think it is just not as socially acceptable, or hasn't been, so we are not accostomed to saying these words. Not like the male body parts at least.
Hopefully this is something we can change with our daughters.

I can tell you this much, my kids never call it something that it isn't. Penises and vaginas..that's what we have.

Katie said...

I refer to male and female genitalia as "magic parts", if I'm going to use a euphemism (which I do more often than not).

Mama K said...

"eternal flower"? I like that. Elegant and strong. Do you think women in general tend to be more private, more protective of our bodies than men are? Maybe we name the parts cutesie names because naming them out loud almost seems invasive to such a precious treasure. Just a thought.

Jenn said...

Thanks Nicole, I JUST had this conversation with my midwife a few days ago. In fact I told her my new favorite word is 'vagina', simply because I find it amusing that grown women are emberrassed by it. In the last week I have worked vaginas into several conversations... btw, they blush at hearing 'penis' too, I just find it easier to randomly bring up vaginas. I love you for mentioning it :)

womantowomancbe said...

Well, at least in my family, we have equal-opportunity slang for body parts. Not me personally, but my sisters' sons (and, quite frankly, most everybody else I know, except my brother) uses slang "kiddie" terms for the privates -- male and female. I teach my boys the right word, but it makes my mom cringe. :-) However, she doesn't like any of the slang terms either, so I don't really know why she objects to "penis" more than, say, "tallywacker." :-D

-Kathy

Leah S said...

My dad used the correct wording, but due to my deafness, I misheard him. I thought he said "faginas". And I used to think guys has "peanuts". Oh, the joys of the English language! :)

Sheridan said...

Oh yeah, that bugs me too. I have friends who call their little boys penis a ding dong. Really. Like that is better than penis?

My boys know all the appropriate words, including vagina. My 3 year old keeps asking where my pee comes out and so I taught him about urethras.

Michawn said...

i just wanted to click in and tell you my perspective and thoughts. i am all about being informed and plan to tell my children all about their body parts...already do actually...it's just a natural thing that we will always talk about...none of this when they turn 13 we'll give them a book thing. know what i mean? my children will know the proper terms for their body parts, but we just don't call them that in everyday life. we don't think they are 'dirty words' or whatever...not shameful or anything. but, we just prefer different terms. i'm like that in everything though. i speak in 'slang' alot. doesn't just refer to body parts or bodily functions, but includes that for sure. anyway, just wanted to give the other side. some people just prefer other words. my conversation in that scenario probably would've been something like this: "Mom, do I have a penis?" "No, you have what's called a vagina, but we use the word ta-ta (insert personal favorite here :) ), not vagina. That is the official word for it though." See what I mean?

kris said...

what a brilliant post!!

ok, i'll admit it. when my kids were younger, everything was either a peepee, or a butt. now that they're a little older, we have brought out the corrrect terms. they didn't seem to care either way. the important thing to me was that there was nothing wierd or shameful in it.

again, love this post! hugs to you!

Beth said...

Yes! Exactly!
I agree with you 100%. Have you ever read the book "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence" by Inga Muscio? It discusses this topic at length and encourages women to learn about their body parts and to celebrate them. Seriously, it was a life-changing read for me. Keep up the good work!

Beckaboo said...

I tell my 18 month old every time she touches herself that that is her vagina... vagina... vagina... vagina

My 3 YO son, pointed at me the other day and said, mama's penis. I quickly corrected him and told him mommy is a girl, mommy has a vagina and had him repeat the word vagina.

How ever, I have called it a vajay-jay & some other words before. :)

Baby Bee's Boutique said...

Amen girly!!

Lea said...

We talk about this in parent groups alot. I think part of the problem is that we do have more parts than just the vagina - since vagina is just the inner parts - there's also the vulva. I know friends who have taken yoni has an all encompassing term - I like the idea, but it isn't for me. We say vagina in our house - but I know that it isn't anatomically correct either in its limited scope. Sigh. Alot of moms talk about how "vagina" is such an unattractive word - and what I wonder is it something about how we see/understand the word or is the word itself just not a pretty word. And I tend to think it might be the latter. :)

kris said...

mamavee-brilliant!!

Dana said...

I have a 4 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. I use the term "private parts" to refer to their genitalia in general, and have been teaching them the specific words vulva and penis for their individual bodies, because those are the private parts that are most obviously seen and touched by them.

It is tricky because urine so obviously comes out of a boy's penis, and a girl seems to be deficient in this area. I don't want my daughter to feel like she's lacking in anything! I remind her that one day she'll be able to have a baby because of the way she's made.

breedermama said...

I totally just blogged about this stuff.

http://breedermama.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/the-vulvanator/

Great post. We use: penis, scrotum, testicles, vulva and vagina...because that is what they are called and everyone understands what they mean.

Hobo Mama said...

This made me laugh, so I just had to chime in. My mom used to call it my "little bottom." No one else had ever heard that term, so I had to explain it to my school friends. That's why it's easier to just use the right name in the first place, I guess! But then when my little brother was born (when I was 9 and now knew the terms), my mom used "penis" for him, when I was waiting with bated breath to see what bizarre euphemism she'd pull out of her you-know-where. Go figure!

Jessica said...

It's no wonder why so many adult women are so uncomfortable with their own VAGINA!! It's a beautiful natural thing and we should learn to embrace what it really is from day one!!!

Susannah Forshey said...

I have to say, I'm seeing a pattern here: it seems women are less comfortable using the terminology they grew up using, whether it was Vagina or Ta-ta, it all feels uncomfortable as a grown-up, and they want to change it for *their* kids. I was a 3 year old who frankly discussed my Vagina. Now that I'm a mother, I'm uncomfortable using the Real Word with my own daughter. She talks very clearly at age 2, and I don't want her growing up with people snickering at her when she indiscreetly uses the "right word." I have memories of grown-ups blushing and looking away when I used the word, vagina, in front of them. That gave me the impression it was "dirty." I think until society has an overhaul, it's better for her to be just "cute" and talk about her "hoo-hoo" at age 2, then when she's older and develops discretion, I'll inform her of the right word.

Mount Belly Mama said...

Hey, if you get a chance read my post on my hospital tour... you might find it, uh.. interesting.

http://hotbellymama.blogspot.com/2009/04/am-i-high-or-low-photos.html

CappuccinoLife said...

You know, I would be more comfortable using it if it weren't for a certain segment of feminism. When I hear vagina, I don't think of birth or anything else wonderful, but The Vagina Monologues. :/

Jenny-Fair said...

I know people who call breasts ta-tas, so that little girl could get mighty confused in the future!

Once upon a time, when my younger son was a preschooler and my grandmother had a full house of renters, the boy was sitting on the toilet and my gradmother was apparently worried about aim. She called to him, 'Make sure you get your little tail down in there!' and he yelled at the top of his lungs, 'It's not a tail, Grandma, it's a PENIS!'

She never called it anything but a penis from then on, just to keep him quiet! LOL

Lil said...

my now 4yr old has always heard "yoni" in our home. While I don't feel shame using "vagina or vulva", since discovering the word "yoni", I feel that it encompasses the beauty of what a vagina is, a delicate place of strength and vulnerablity, a source of our creativity of life and/or self-empowerment, and not just a couple of holew where we pee and bleed from.

You should see the looks though when my daughter yells "oh my yoni!" as she straddles certain climbing structures at the playground, it's hilarious!

And since reading all the comments, I now realize I better let her teacher know that when she says yoni, she means vagina.

Thanks for this...clearly having "vagina" in your title is getting the right kind of response!

peace,
lil

Michelle said...

Thinking about you today. And prayers for you and your family.

FandK said...

I am pregnant now and I know we will be using the real words for all body parts-- I don't make up nicknames for arms and legs, I'm not going to do it for a vagina or penis. It drives me CRAZY to hear people use baby voices and 'baby' names for thier children's organs--- what are we so afraid of?!? Now, I just have to get my parents and my husband's parents on the plan!!

Beautiful Mess said...

I too have a VAGINA not a "lady" or a "ta-ta"

But I wanted to add for your entertainment that my son (now 15, then 6ish)when he overheard me and my daughter talking about "femine issues" said-

son: "I know what you are talking about"

mom: Really? What is that?

son: "you're talking about Brittny's hairy line"

???HAIRY LINE!

Hands down best name! True story! Wins among my friends for sure!

Rochelle said...

AMEN!!!

Kirsten said...

We use yoni around here, as well.
All encompassing and I thank Anne Frye for that. I have and will use the correct terms when appropriate and necessary but I like having a word that covers everything. But what is amusing is when my middle child refers to a penis as a long yoni.

Nadine said...

Great post! We grew up calling our vaginas the word everyone else use for their butts (toushey? sp?). I was very confused when I heard the word in school.

Btw, I love the art at the top of your blog. Beautiful!

Jessica Morris said...

Agreed! We are teaching our boys the right words for boy and girls body parts.
I have a funny story about a penis conversation my husband and two year old had. I just posted it yesterday on my blog - http://paulsbride.blogspot.com/2009/06/gender-of-lightbulb.html

Andrea said...

I agree with you. What is wrong with the word vagina, or any other part of the female anatomy for that part? My stepson actually cringes and leaves the room if I use the word uterus, but we had to remove the computer from his room due to the type of language that was used on the chatrooms.

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