Tuesday, July 05, 2005

"Do you have a license for that thing?"

My niece watched the The Vagina Monologues the other night and was a little perturbed. Apparently the author of the play, Eve Ensler, uses the word “vagina” in reference to the "whole system of female reproductive organs, external and internal."

A very common misconception. No pun intended.

Eve Ensler has even been quoted as saying in the article Down there (Metro Times Detroit): "“Whatever it is, it's the word we've got. I think it would be fantastic to come up with a more beautiful, delicious, all-inclusive word that included the vulva and the labia and everything, the whole package, but we don'’t have that word at this point.”"

UHHH, Ms. Ensler, we do. That word IS "Vulva". Please stop perpetuating the ignorance.

Clinically speaking, she is referring only to the birth canal: "The vagina is an elastic muscular tube about 4 inches (100 mm) long and 1 inch (25 mm) in diameter that connects the vulva at the outside to the cervix of the uterus at the inside."

The external female genitals are collectively referred to as the Vulva. Rarely does anyone ever use the word "vulva." But as that's exactly what they are usually talking about, why don't they just say it?

My niece and I find that most people just aren't paying enough attention to what one normally learns in the course of junior high health classes. Even magazines sold in grocery stores, such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan, frequently discuss the female anatomy using accurate descriptions and proper names.

I should know - I aced my Human Sexuality course in college due to knowledge gleaned primarily from reading Cosmo throughout my adolescence.

I suppose most people cannot help it, especially with memorable quotes from movies such as '‘Kindergarten Cop'’: "Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina!"

But, as articulately expressed in the article Vulvas with a Difference, "The vagina is not the homologous organ to the penis, and the incorrect nomenclature perpetuates the invisibility and unmentionability of the female sexual (orgasmic) organs "–the vulva and clit."

And I also like what they say here: "In common speech, the term "vagina" is often used improperly to refer to the vulva or female genitals generally....Calling the vulva the vagina is akin to calling the mouth the throat."

In searching the internet for information for this post, I came across MANY sites, too many in fact, that incorrectly use the term "vagina" when clearly they meant "vulva". I am quite aware that even intelligent people mistakenly use the words interchangeably. But as a female, I would think that other women would care to learn proper terminology for their own distinctive body parts. Realistically I know they do not.

So it should have come as no surprise that I had the following conversation. Within days of having puppies, I took my niece's dog to be groomed. Upon my arrival to pick up the dog, the clerk pulled me aside to tell me, "She (the dog) has a discharge from her Volvo." To which I replied, "I didn't even know she could drive."


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