Vagina vs Toody: When Do I Update My Daughter's Vocabulary?

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That’s right -- Vagina.

Vagina DictionaryI receive weekly email updates about timely news information. For instance, the past few weeks have detailed the events surrounding the 10-year anniversary of September 11. But last week I was a bit shocked to find the headline: "THE WORD ON EVERYBODY'S LIPS IS 'VAGINA.’" It’s not that I was offended -- very little offends me -- I just found it odd this was ‘timely news information.’

It went on to say, "Vagina. Suddenly, it’s nearly impossible to flip on the news or watch a sitcom, reality series, or late-night or daytime talk show without hearing 'vagina.'” This comes from Pamela Madsen, noted sexual educator, fertility expert and author of Shameless: How I Ditched The Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure and Still Got Home In Time To Cook Dinner.

I’ve wracked my brain. I remember a Friends episode when Phoebe is giving birth to triplets and she yells at Ross, “I don’t see three babies coming out of your vagina!” But that originally aired 13 years ago, so somehow I don’t think that’s what Madsen is referring to. I’m pretty sure Chelsea Handler throws it around, and since I love all things Chelsea, I don’t mind.

I know a lot of women who are probably blushing as they read this. That is, if they’ve made it this far. The truth is, I’m okay with the word. Sure, it’s not a staple in my everyday vocabulary, but I don’t mind it being flashed here, there and everywhere. It’s the name of a body part, the same as 'arm' or 'leg.'

But then I ask myself: When do I bring 'vagina' into my 4-year-old daughter’s vocabulary? Around here, we call it her 'toody.' I like to think it goes along nicely with 'tushy.' There’s a Sex and the City episode where Carrie dates a writer named Vaughn (played by Justin Theroux) whose mother proudly proclaims, “When they were two years old, they knew the proper names for their body parts. None of this pee-pee and wee-wee crap. And as a result, they can talk to me about anything.”

And guess what? “Too-quick Vaughn” has some issues. Yes, this is fictional, but a mother can’t help but worry. I just can’t picture myself calling through the shower curtain, “Honey, make sure you wash your vagina.”

The blurb continues: “Why now? Is the unimpeded flow of female-positive information on Facebook, Twitter and sexual-health blogs accelerating vagina acceptance and all that it implies?”

Credit is definitely due to the woman who started the revival: The Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler. In her 2006 "This I Believe" essay on NPR, Ensler says:

“I believe that by saying it 128 times each show, night after night... By saying it often enough and loud enough in places where it was not supposed to be said, the saying of it became both political and mystical and gave birth to a worldwide movement to end violence against women.”

Suddenly the word is so much more, but still I’m left with these nagging questions. Does this make me anti-feminist? Ashamed of my own sexuality? No, of course not. But what will my daughter think? It’s not as if we won't talk about it somewhere down the line -- and probably sooner than later, considering she’s already asked about sex.

Am I not accepting of the word if I continue with 'toody?' Is this something that will inhibit her once she’s older? Or is it the same as calling it ‘belly button’ instead of naval? Is vagina just another a word?

“It seems 'vagina' has arrived," according to Madsen. And perhaps it has.

But when should it arrive for my daughter?


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