Getting Our Word's Worth

by Dr. Tomi-Ann Roberts
Vagina

Unfortunately, one way many girls and women stay in the dark (and therefore powerless) about their vaginas is by avoiding the word "vagina" altogether.  On one Web site, I found 1,500 words commonly used to refer to the vagina compared to only 123 for the male parts.  This is concerning because the names we give things color the way we see them.

Take the nickname "va-jay-jay."  Everyone's using it!  It was introduced to the public through a "Grey's Anatomy" episode.  Even though the show used the word penis in several episodes without any problems from the broadcasting standards board, the word "vagina" made the board nervous, so the writers needed to come up with an alternative.  Enter va-jay-jay as the 1,501st name.

If the names we give things color the way we see them, then what does "va-jay-jay" make you see?  I see a children's toy or a new dance.  When we use nicknames for parts of our bodies instead of real names we diminish our relationship with ourselves.  When we allow someone else to name our body or our experience, we give them the power to define us and take our choices away.  There are studies showing that the words used instead of vagina are more degrading than the words used instead of penis.  Can you imagine a guy referring affectionately to his penis as his "pee-nay-nay"?  What would people think of him if he did?  And what would it mean about how he sees himself?

Dr. Elliot on the TV show "Scrubs" used the word bajingo because she couldn't bring herself to say vagina.  Not only did her reluctance cause problems on her hospital rounds, but in her love life too because nobody understood what she was talking about.  In a great closing sequence, she finally got the courage to say "I have a vagina."  Her boyfriend rushed to her and said, "That's so hot!"

Let's get our word's worth.  What we've got are vaginas.  Vaginas are what make us women.  They're beautiful and a natural part of a female's body.  Our vaginas need our respect, because that's how they'll get respect from the rest of the world.  Remember that knowledge is power.  What you know about your vagina makes all the difference in giving you the power to take care of you.

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i have a vagina

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