Years ago, I worked at a school with a veterinary technician program. One day, an instructor and I were comparing crazy student stories. She told me about a student in her anatomy & physiology class. The class discussion turned to the differences between female and male genitalia. Someone mentioned the fact that female mammals have three “holes”, while males only have two. “Wait, so what’s the third hole for?!” The class then proceeded to inform this twenty-something-year-old woman that she did not, in fact, pee and menstruate out of the same place on her body. Had she never bothered to look at herself, we wondered? And which holes did she know about, and which one had gone unnoticed all these years? How could someone know so little about their own body?
When Phaedra was a toddler, I found myself fumbling to find the right words to talk about bodily functions and their corresponding body parts. “Bum” or “butt” worked okay for that area, but I was at a loss over what to call that other important part. “Pee pee” seemed okay, but that’s what we called urine, so that was too confusing. I tried not calling it anything at all, which really didn’t work because anyone who has ever attempted to potty-train a child knows it involves looooooong, involved conversations and explanations regarding what you would like each body part to do, and when and where you would like it to perform that function (conversations that make you feel like you’re accomplishing something, but mean exactly dick to your kids). I finally realized that trying to come up with a new name for something that already has a fucking name is a complete waste of time.
So, my daughters don’t have hoo-hoos or vajayjays or pee-pees or any other ridiculous word with a repeating syllable in it. They were born with vaginas, and they are fully aware of that fact. And, much to his dismay, their father is fully aware of it as well. Aside from all the feminist “be proud of your vagina!” discourse that I would love to say ultimately helped me come to this conclusion regarding the nomenclature of my daughters’ genitalia, I must admit that it delights me to no end when my oldest daughter (who still has a hard time pronouncing the “v” sound) complains to my husband about how her BUHGINA itches, or how she really has to go potty and her BUHGINA just can’t hold it any longer.
(Let me just take a special time-out here to point out that yes, I understand that my daughters don’t technically pee from their vaginas. One day I’ll give my daughters a more detailed explanation of how that area works, but right now I’m not comfortable telling my five-year-old that actually her vagina is where blood and babies come out, and penises and/or dildos go into. But hey, different strokes, AMIRITE?!?!)
I know I’ve said this a couple of times before, but we’re raising future women, you guys. We need to get these women ready to go out into the world and reject the people and ideas floating around in our culture that tells them they are inferior/ugly/less than/awkward/dumb/shameful simply because they are women. I don’t want my daughters believing there’s something wrong or taboo about the word “vagina”. That’s what it’s called. I really believe the only reason women have grown accustomed to using alternate words for that part of their body is because on some level, society has taught them to be embarrassed by it. Am I 100% comfortable saying the word “vagina”? No, honestly, I’m not. I think it’s a weird word, and I cringe the tiniest bit every time I use it. But I suck it up and use it without batting an eye when I talk to my girls, because I want them to get the message that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to their perfectly normal female body. Every single body part she possesses is valid and important and worthy of respect.
Although seriously, kids, it would be nice if I didn’t have to actually see your vaginas quite as often as I do.