A vagina monologue
My vagina is not a euphemism. So how come it’s getting everyone so hot and bothered?
An ad for Carefree liners was the most complained about television ad of 2012 because it correctly references the female anatomy. I am offended that people are so offended by my vagina. Or by vaginas in general.
Vagina is not a dirty word. And I for one was impressed that Carefree was the first company to do away with the awful, awful euphemisms that plague advertising for female sanitary products. Last year Kotex U created a series of ads for sanitary pads based entirely on beaver jokes. In prime time. And the ads weren’t subtle either. They featured an actual beaver puppet.
But the beaver ad was apparently more acceptable than the word “vagina”.
You know what is a dirty term? The phrase “down there”. Or “hoo ha”, or “ladies’ bits” or the abundance of other filthier terms not suitable for a family website. And it’s not like these words are rare or out of the public lexicon. We hear them referenced frequently in television shows, films, out of the mouths of rude drivers and at almost any pub in city after midnight.
Yes, I am talking about “the C word”. This horrible, derogatory word seems to have slipped into the common Aussie vernacular without very much protest.
But, vagina? Vagina is the word that offends you?
So can we just get this out of the way: VAGINA VAGINA VAGINA. Say it with me. VAGINA. See? Any harm done?
Renaming the vagina with something you feel more comfortable saying destroys the agency of women, and reaffirms that female sexuality is something that should be feared.
By everyone. It’s sexism at its most subtle and also at its most dangerous.
Sex education experts have long emphasised that avoiding euphemisms is essential in teaching children appropriate sexual behavior, as well as providing them with a vernacular for their body that allows them to take responsibility for themselves.
It gives them agency over their own physical domain. It gives women a way to arm themselves against any who should wish to violate their sovereignty. Knowledge, education and language are three weapons against coercion, or attacks.
So when you write to the ACCC or Channel Seven, Nine or Ten to say how offended you are that Carefree decided to speak in plain English about women’s reproductive systems, you’re actually doing more harm than good.
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