Wipe Your Shame-Cave, Honey
My daughter hasn’t got the hang of the potty yet, but she’s learning. And after she urinates, she wipes her vulva. Because that’s what it’s called.
Over at Feministe, Jill posted an Onion piece that is laugh-out-loud funny about the shame and embarassment people display over female genitals.
Being one of those humorless feminists, though, I can’t help pointing out that there is a lot to take seriously about whether we call girls’ genitals what they are or some cute nickname: this is where it starts. We either teach our kids that their bodies are normal and natural, or we teach them that we can’t talk about them without stammering and blushing. And in this, so many people fail their girls.
I know lots of parents who can call a boy’s penis a penis without stiffling a snicker. Boy parts are ordinary body parts with names. Ear, elbow, penis. Many of these same folks can’t use proper terms for their daughters’ genitals. Girl parts are unmentionable. They have cute names and euphemisms. That’s how it starts.
We teach girls they cannot deal openly and forthrightly with the bodies the way boys can, and then later we teach them they can’t deal openly and forthrightly with their sexuality, even if boys can. Boys have penises, boys have desire, boys have sex. Girls … the adults would rather not talk about. And so we fail. First, we can’t call a vulva a vulva. Then we can’t call a vagina a vagina, even when it’s an award-winning play. Then we can’t have these conversations, because we never laid the groundwork; never built the foundation to allow us to parent our children from kids to adults — whole, sexual adults.
We need to get over it, the only way that works: a little at a time, starting with baby step. It’s called a vulva.