Last week on the Sexist, readers sounded off on the new Kotex ad that isn’t allowed to utter the sound “vuh–jahy-nuh,” we parsed the difference between the “vulva” and the “vagina,” and one commenter received some Very Special terminology instruction on the meaning of “tampon.” Let’s do this point-counterpoint style, shall we?
POINT: Censoring the word “vagina” is an absurd and sexist practice. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten on the Post‘s history of not saying “vagina” in print:
On this subject, I’d like to reprise a Comment I once made in this very forum a few months ago:
Meanwhile, I’d like to share a story apropos of the argument about whether women “are” their body parts. Back in the 1990s I was editing a story by Laura Blumenfeld about the then-trendy topic of the female condom. When we were done with it, the story had to be approved by a top editor at the paper, because it was about sex, and The Post was very, very nervous about sex. The editor liked the story, but he asked us to take out the word “vagina,” which he found distasteful. (Er, he found the WORD distasteful.)
Laura and I argued strenuously that you cannot write a story about the female condom without indicating how it is used, and that it is absolutely impossible to explain this without using the v word. And that there is nothing wrong with the v word.
The editor got all huffy and declared that he would rewrite it himself, which he did. And so there appeared the following line in The Washington Post; it is still in the archives: “The female condom lines the inside of a woman.”
Voila! In trying to be tasteful and sensitive, this editor put into the Washington Post a line SPECIFICALLY equating a woman with her ladypart.
COUNTERPOINT: Censoring the word “vagina” is an absurd and sexist practice . . . inflicted against men by those danged feminist groups! Also, forget “vagina!” Why can’t I say “pussy”? Jeff lays it all down for us:
Did you ever think that women will complain if the word vagina is used and the networks don’t want letters and calls from thousands of women. It’s why words for male genitals are used routinely throughout every show on TV, but you will never hear a slang word for female genitalia. I have heard balls, nuts, dick, pecker, prick, dickhead, and even cock during prime-time on all channels. Why can’t tits or pussy be used? It’s because of the backlash from women’s groups and many women in general.
Could you imagine how many letters and calls NBC would receive if the show Parks and Recreation used the word pussy. But I heard the word dick and balls during the last episode. It’s ok for mainstream media to be sexist and bash men, use words for male genitalia, portray men as bumbling idiots, but not women.
It’s even ok to show men nude in basic cable shows, but never women. Movies and cable shows even have started showing penises regularly, but a vagina is forbidden. It’s given an NC-17 if they try to show it. Only pubic hair or a boob is allowed because women think showing a vagina degrades them. Even the show Spartacus shows penises every episode, but they won’t show a vulva so they make the women wear merkins to cover them up.
So in the end, blame women and women’s groups for acting like a vagina is so vulgar.
Does “A Vagina Is Forbidden” sound like a catchphrase used to sell diamonds to anyone else? And speaking of the difference between the vagina and the vulva, I, too, am interested in basic cable showing more of the internal canal leading to a woman’s uterus. Also, why aren’t these ancient Roman women depicted with totally bald genitalia? Sexism!