Welcome to the Age of Vagina

July 20th, 2012

Trust me, there’s no easy way to start a blog about vaginas. yet, here we are. Seems everyone’s talking about them. From the Vagina Monologues, to something called a Vajazzle and advertisements for a medication named Vagisil, it’s like the once-whispered V word has finally broken through the glass ceiling. Women haven’t quite managed it yet, but at least part of them has. Forget Aquarius, this is the Age of the Vagina.

Don’t blame me for picking this topic. It’s everywhere we look. There’s even a book out called Vaginas: an Owner’s Manual. Haven’t felt a need to buy a copy myself but still, it’s reassuring to know all bases have been covered. The most recent public airing of the word? it occurs in the latest Carefree television advertisement, in which an actor talks about her “body working to keep the vagina healthy.” Cue much hand-wringing, and concerns about young viewers.We’re a strange bunch when it comes to language, aren’t we? I mean, in a world where it’s now considered okay to tell police officers to “f… off”, and in which once-censured words are now happily bandied around on prime time tele, it says something that we’re still having a problem with a mere anatomical term. But the funniest bit? That the people who consider it inappropriate or, God forbid, offensive, believe they’re trying to uphold standards.not that it’s only an issue in New Zealand. far from it. In the United States, politicians and women’s rights groups were last month embroiled in, wait for it – “Vaginagate“, a controversy sparked after a Democrat was banned from speaking in a Michigan legislature debate (on an anti-abortion bill) as punishment for saying “vagina” out loud. And no, I’m not making this up. Lisa Brown was effectively gagged for what was described as a breach of decorum.And this is where the matter gets more serious. as the Guardian’s Naomi Wolf pointed out last month, when it’s okay for anti-abortion politicians to discuss at length issues such as trans-vaginal probes and other punitive measures (sometimes profoundly against a women’s will) yet it’s offensive for a female politician to utter the word “vagina” in her counter-argument, you’re left with an issue that has nothing to do with propriety and everything to do with power.To an extent, New Zealand-based opposition to the Carefree advertisement follows a similar path. there might not be a political motive involved but the methodology and outcome is much the same. Intangible values such as decency and propriety are being misused in an attempt to stifle rational and reasoned thought. there is nothing offensive about the word vagina, after all. The only problem is in the minds of those who object.And there I was, thinking we’d come a long way since folk were up in arms over Toyota’s “bugger” advertisement. more than 20 years ago when I worked on the Otago Daily Times, we weren’t even allowed to use the word “erect”. Or “willy”, for that matter. “Penis” had no chance. Now we see “bloody”, “bugger”, “cock”, “bastard”, and “bitch” on a regular basis (although not in the Oddity, admittedly). I even had the word “fisting” in a blog last week.Final thoughts on this should go to Vagina Monologues playwright Eve Ensler, who last month turned up with 2,500 others when Lisa Brown staged a protest reading of her play on the steps of the Michigan courthouse. The sub-plot to Ensler’s remarks? That it’s time we started accepting not just “that” word but women in general, without the sexual innuendo and associated hang-ups. Applies just as well to opponents of the Carefree adverts, too.”No-one can put the genie back into the bottle,” Ensler told the crowd. “The vaginas are out. And we are here to stay.”

» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.» Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardboock.

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– © Fairfax NZ News

Welcome to the Age of Vagina

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