Vagina Vagina Vagina (VAGINA!)
Imagine this. You’re standing in front of 2,400 women. You lean over so you’re talking deep and low right into the mic and you say, “Vagina. Vagina. Say it with me now -- Vagina” and 2,400 women scream “VAGINA!” You talk about “front bottoms” and “wee wees” and you give people permission to name their parts and to own what it means to be female. You talk about the fabulous U by Kotex campaign that pokes fun at feminine hygiene ads that completely ignore the fact that tampons are about periods -- and vaginas -- and encourages women to get real, to own it, and to tell it like it really is. By the time you lead the chorus in a resounding “VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA,” estrogen is swirling all around and your mission is accomplished.
Yes, that happened to me -- and yes, it was the highlight of my BlogHer 2010 experience.
Bless his heart, Jason Mayo came onstage after me. The last words I spoke before he came up to the mic were “Vagina. Vagina. Vagina” with the whole BlogHer audience chanting with me. And then Jason came onstage as the token male blogger to read his gorgeous post "Valentine’s Day Is a Greedy Whore". And the first words that came out of his mouth were, “My penis is feeling a little confused right now.” I think I love him for being brave enough to go on -- and to rock his authentic self amidst a sea of ovaries. Kudos to you, Jason. You’re my new hero. (Vagina vagina vagina -- penis.)
At the parties afterwards, women kept approaching me, thanking me for giving them permission to give voice to such a closeted word. Some snuck up behind me, whispered “vagina” in my ear, and wandered off before I even noticed who had said it. Some watercolored the words Vagina Vagina Vagina on canvas for a group painting in the art auction room. Someone else wrote it in a blurb of quotes representing what we were saying there at BlogHer. When I got into a crowded elevator, the whole elevator erupted into a chorus of “VAGINA!”
Others approached me to ask whether I think it’s okay to call our girly parts something less clinical. One said, “I prefer to call it ‘Wally and the Beave.’” Another loves “coochie.” Another calls hers “Sassy.” One BlogHer attendee Lee Ann Hill even wrote about it on her blog in a post called Your Vagina is My Diabetic.
In a poll of the Owning Pink community, 34% of you like calling it “va jay jay”, 26% prefer “coochie”, and 16% like “lady business”, while “na na”, “beaver”, “goodies”, and “cha cha” trail behind.
Again, I don’t give a flip what you call it. As long as you call it something. Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I think you have to use clinical terms. In fact, clinical terms can be confusing. Many call the female genitalia “vagina” when in fact, the vagina only represents the internal part, the part you can’t even see. “Vulva” is more accurate (or, as my daughter calls it, “Volvo”) but it’s not all-inclusive. The reason I said “Vagina Vagina Vagina” is because we were talking about tampons -- and vaginas are where the tampons go. But what if you’re talking about the whole thing? What do you call it in clinical terms?
Guys have it easier.
Sure, they have internal junk. There’s the prostate, the vas deferens. There’s external stuff that gets less attention (the scrotum, the testes). But the penis gets the glory. And for the most part, that’s where the action happens. So naming it is easier. When it comes to talking about male genitalia, “penis” pretty much works.
But what about women? It’s not so easy. There is no single word that covers the whole thing. I mean, seriously, “female genitalia” just isn’t gonna cut it. So if that means you call your girl parts “hooha” or “va jay jay” or “coochie” or “muff”, I don’t give a flip, as long as you’re TALKING about it! (And I hope to get us talking about it a lot more with the release of What's Up Down There? next month! Just sayin'.)
Just OWN it. It’s a part of you. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s something to celebrate. The vagina is the place of creation, the giver of life, the palace of pleasure, the place of potential. Call it what you will. Just call it.
Because I started this conversation, U by Kotex sponsored the Owning Pink team to go to the BlogHer conference. Mind you -- I didn’t write about them because they paid me to. I wrote about them because I believe in the Get Real campaign they’re launching to get women talking. I am proud to be aligned with them and I am grateful for their sponsorship.
Dr. Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, an author, a nationally-represented professional artist, and the founder of Owning Pink, an online community committed to building authentic community and empowering women to get- and keep- their "mojo". Owning Pink is all about owning all the facets of what makes you whole- your health, your sexuality, your spirituality, your creativity, your career, your relationships, the planet, and YOU. Dr. Rankin is currently redefining women’s health at the Owning Pink Center, her practice in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of the forthcoming What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin's Press, September 2010).