Tag Archives: vagina

Vagina Drama, and Why It Matters

Laurie and Debbie say:

Everyone is probably aware that Michigan Democratic State Senator Lisa Brown had a one-day gag order imposed upon her for using the word “vagina”  in a comment about state abortion clinic regulations. What she said was, “I’m flattered you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

This has led to all kinds of political responses, from a reading of The Vagina Monologues (by Eve Ensler) starring Brown on the steps of the Michigan capitol building to a tongue-in-cheek proposal by Dahlia Lithwick recommending a law “providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will.”

The leader in the fight to silence Brown, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said, “What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” Our experience is that men who say “I would not say that in mixed company” are often the ones who say “cunt” in unmixed company, and in front of women, act like we don’t have bodies, unless they’re trying to get into the parts they won’t mention.

“Cunt” is a word a lot of people have trouble with, because in the United States (except in some radical circles), it is used almost exclusively as a negative description of women–not our bodily parts but all of us. “Pussy,” on the other hand, is used as a negative description of men. “Vagina” is effectively never used as a slur. It’s a formal, medical word, perhaps the only one that can be used without a lot of sexual innuendo.  And it makes lots of people uncomfortable. (This paragraph edited based on the comments, which have more information about different word use in Australia.)

Kayt Sukel, an author who writes about neuroscience and sexuality, has given lectures around the country on the issue. And there’s one word, she finds, that never fails to make some in her audience squeamish.

“There’s just something about the word ‘vagina’ that startles people — I don’t know what it is,” says Sukel. “People sit back a little bit. Sometimes they start giggling. I end up using euphemisms just to make them more comfortable, and more receptive to what I am saying. And we don’t seem to have the same problems with the word ‘penis.'”

We’ve seen the history of public use of medical terms in the media played out in our lifetimes. “Anus,” and a host of other sexual words, became acceptable because of the serious talk about safer sex required by the AIDS epidemic.  “Penis” made an extra jump to the national news when Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s in 1993. Eve Ensler gets the credit for bringing “vagina” into common usage in the media.

Of course there was a time when no one would say any of these words in a legislative setting. Brown probably, at least to some extent, meant to be shocking. She probably expected some reaction. But she wasn’t just criticized, or asked to behave differently, she was actually, legally silenced from saying anything in her official capacity for 24 hours. And the implication is clear that if she continues, they (the men/Republicans in the Michigan legislature) can do this for longer.

It’s not about the word. It’s not even about vaginas. It’s about men (and, horrifyingly, women) who believe that their right to legislate women’s bodies extends to their right to legislate our mouths, our minds, and our very existence. It’s about who gets to decide what words are dirty and which dirty words can be said where.

Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Penis. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Pussy. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina. Cunt. Vagina. Vagina. Vagina.

Oh, and by the way, Representative Callton? We’d like you better if you were a penis instead of a dick.

Vajazzling Around

Laurie and Debbie say:

Some of our friends are up in arms about “vajazzling.” If you haven’t heard the word, it refers to having tiny Swarovski crystals heat-sealed onto your waxed (or super-shaved) vagina (which here at Body Impolitic we do not call the “vajayjay”). Jennifer Love Hewitt does it and (sadly) she says she does it “to feel good about her privates.”

article author with PG-rated vajazzle pic

Okay, this is a little complicated. Some of the background things to think about:

1) Waxing and shaving both have a flavor of infantilization, of looking like prepubescent girls instead of women.
2) Anything that modifies your vagina (or any part of your body) at a price is going to be sold as “better than natural,” because “natural” is free. So there’s always a disturbing hint of “you don’t look good the way you are.”
3) Vagina modifications in particular are almost always spun as of “it’s icky down there unless you make it better/cleaner/neater.”

All that being said, we think that if it’s your style vajazzling is a pretty harmless variation on sprucing up your private parts. It isn’t invasive, it lasts about five days (which means it’s a real moneymaker for vajazzlers who can attract repeat clients, but it’s also something you can do for a fling), and it’s sparkly!

Doree Shafrir at Gawker interviewed a few men to see what they thought about it, and got basically negative responses, including Gabe Delahaye at Videogum, who said,

“”Gross. People who vajazzle should have their vaginas taken away,” he said. “They can have them back when they are ready.”

We’re a lot more grossed out by men who think it’s okay to judge women that way then we are by women witih sparkly genitalia. And sad to see feminist friends repeating it with admiration.

One last point about vajazzling: men clearly are not who it’s for. Hewitt did it to recover from a breakup. Bryce at the Luxury Spot, pictured above, was hardly worried about the injunction “not to engage in any ‘vigorous activity for at least the first day,'” saying, “I should be so lucky.”

If you’re going to wax anyway, you can afford it, and it’s your style, why not add some crystals into the mix?