The funniest satire is closest to the truth, so naturally I got a big laugh out of last week’s Onion article entitled “Renowned Hoo-Ha Doctor Wins Nobel Prize for Medical Advancement Down There,” which reads:
STOCKHOLM—In recognition of her groundbreaking work treating life- threatening diseases of the privates, renowned hoo-ha specialist Dr. Victoria Lazoff was awarded the Nobel Prize in Lady Medicine this week.
We should be encouraging an open dialogue with our young women, one that isn’t constrained by some outdated facade of 1950s morality,” Lazoff said to a crowd of people looking down at their shoes. “I cannot say this clearly enough: Ladies, please, make an appointment to get your annual [looksie-doo], especially if you are [seeing a fella] or have experienced pain or sensitivity in your [‘Hello, my baby! Hello, my darling! Hello, my ragtime gal!’].”
Added Lazoff, “It is time for this country to begin having a frank discussion about the [sound of loud, extended train whistle].”
Ah yes. Our vaginas, our vulvas, our uteri and all the things we call them–or don’t call them. This is a major feminist pet peeve of mine, which is undoubtedly why I found that Onion article so funny. Whether it was my college roommate’s AME church-lady grandma who calls it—disturbingly—“your pocketbook” or my best friend in elementary school, who genuinely thought it was called a “woo-woo”, it seems that most of womankind has been raised to feel uncomfortable calling a vagina a vagina.
Fortunately for me, I was raised in a very body-casual kind of house, where we used the V-word all the time and never gave it a second thought. My mother had never forgot her acute embarrassment when she went for her first pelvic exam at age 19 and mispronounced the word “vagina.” It had never been spoken aloud in her very proper, church-going home and she was mortified to discover that the first syllable didn’t rhyme with “bag.” Mom was determined that my stepsister and I should never have any kind of confusion or embarrassment about our bodies, and that included making sure we knew the correct names for all our parts.
It was a lesson I learned so well that when I was for all intents and purposes a stepmother, it used to make me crazy that my boyfriend, when talking to his 6-year-old daughter, called her private parts her “pee-pee.” Frankly, I think that using diminutive, babyish word had everything to do with Daddy wanting to avoid the fact that his daughter even had a vagina, lest he somehow mentally group hers with the grown-up vaginas he was so enthusiastic about. I wasn’t having any of it, though. One day his little girl wandered into the bathroom to chat with me when I was showering, looked me over and observed: “You have hair on your pee-pee.” Seeing a teachable moment, I replied matter-of-factly: “That’s not my pee-pee. That’s my vagina.” (and yes, I realize that the hair is actually on my pubis and vulva, but I wasn’t going to get into the minutiae of genital anatomy with a first grader). When her little brow wrinkled in confusion, I added, “Pee-pee is a baby word. Vagina is the grown-up word.” Not sure if she ever shared that wisdom with her father, but dammit, it needed to be said.
As for non-scientific terminology, we’ve chatted with commenters in the past about “cunt,” “pussy”, “vajayjay” and various other slangy or pet names for our privates. The consensus among the Harpies is definitely not in favor of “cunt.” SarahMC is on record as not caring if women use it to refer to their own…ahem…c-words. But using it as an insult? No. The insulting use of “cunt” seems to be where the trouble really starts. Quoth PhDork:
I’m not a fan because I’ve almost always heard the word used as an insult, to mean something low and dirty and shameful. To be a pussy is to be weak, but to be a cunt? That’s the worst. A dude might be interested in getting some pussy, but he’s never after cunt. Not that I give a shit about dudes trolling for pussy, either, but there is very little good ascribed to the term cunt, by anyone.
I agree. I know there’s been a move to “reclaim” the c-word, and women are welcome to try, but I won’t be on that bandwagon. There’s something about “cunt” that just raises my hackles. I’ve never heard it used as anything other than a nasty bit of hate speech, and that really turns me off, so much so that I don’t even use it when I’m talking dirty. “Pussy,” “snatch,” etc. are fair game, though. And we here at Harpyness are not above snickering about our ladyflowers, hoo-has and naughty bits. Given that women of previous generations could barely whisper a euphemism about their genitals–if they discussed them at all–we’ve come a long way (thank you, feminism!). But I still think we have a ways to go.
What about y’all? Were you raised with the proper Latin verbiage? With silly or Freudian or icky euphemisms? Inquiring minds want to know, so flash your terminology in the comments…