Because you have nothing to feel ashamed of...
I want to focus on one word being censored right now. The word "vagina."
According to advocacy group Legalize Vagina, in 2012, "Michigan Democratic state rep, Lisa Brown was barred from speaking from the House floor after her protest speech on proposed abortion bills included the word vagina [because] the use of the word showed 'lack of decorum.'"
And in a similar example, "A Facebook ad for a Bedsider article titled 'Six Things You Should Know About Your Well-Woman Visit' with the tagline 'You’re so sexy when you’re well' was recently rejected because it violated 'Facebook's advertising guidelines for language that is profane, vulgar, threatening or generates high negative feedback.'"
So, sure, it’s fun to call our nether regions by cutesy names like vajayjay, cooch, hooha or p*ssy.
And when playing around with friends and lovers I say go for it. When I was coming up with the name for a vaginal lubricant with my brilliant mastermind friends, we sat around laughing hysterically as we tried out names like “Cougar Spit” and “Juicy Ole C*nt." Endorphins galore for all.
It’s important to keep things light. And we certainly weren’t the first and only to make up other words for vagina.
But it’s also important to keep it real.
A vagina is a vagina. It's just the word that’s formally used for this particular body part — and it turns out that women who are ashamed to use it are less likely to report sexual abuse. They are also more likely to Google their symptoms than go see their Ob/Gyn.
(Please, please, please! Do not turn the internet into a replacement for seeing a real doctor when you have health concerns.)
Teaching our children to use names other than vagina means teaching them to believe there is something wrong with that word, and by default, with that part of the body. This facilitates body shame, and there is nothing to be ashamed of because you have a vagina.
By the way, the reason I’m writing the word vagina so many times in this article is to begin normalizing it for you.
Here are four ways to normalize the word "vagina" for yourself:
1. Practice saying “vagina” out loud in front of the mirror.
We talk to ourselves every day. Trust me, there is a running commentary going on at all times. Just stop for a moment and notice the things that you are saying in your head to yourself and about yourself.
Harness the power of that by looking into the mirror and saying, "I love my vagina."
If that seems a bit much start somewhere else. “I love my eyes." “I love my hips." “I love my lips." Find the areas that feel true for you and expand from there, inching into areas that are kind of true, and then see if you can expand the juicy goodness of that.
Positive self-talk is good for our endorphins and freely flowing endorphins have a positive effect on our vaginas. And when our vaginas are happy, believe me, we are happy!
2. Challenge yourself to say “vagina” 3 times in conversations with people today.
Notice their response. Notice your own response to using the word. Bravery begets bravery.
Brene Brown says, “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
Using censored words like vagina is a way to do that.
Trying this may feel like either a small risk or a big one. Notice which it is for you, and if you want to grow your courage a bit more, pick something that feels even edgier to move on to next.
Remember that your edge is not and does not have to be anyone else’s edge. Be brave for YOU.
3. Draw your vulva (because it's kind of hard to draw your vagina).
You can try looking at pictures for inspiration.
Again, this is not a test, but have you ever taken a good look down there? Brilliantly, we are all different! Like snowflakes!
It’s a celebration to note and notice those differences. Not talking about it or not using the proper words to describe what we see and have is the equivalent of putting our heads in the sand.
And that is a fertile breeding ground for shame, discomfort and misunderstanding.
4. Be informed. There really is censorship of the word vagina out there. It’s both shocking and appalling.
But then again there are MANY shocking and appalling things being censored and many shocking and appalling things being said.
I believe a woman’s wisdom resides in the bowl of her pelvis. Creation begins there, whether it’s a baby or an idea. Find what it is that YOU need to be the strong woman you are.
Be Brave. Be Real. Be Strong.
Notice where you are censoring yourself and free yourself from it. All change begins with the self.
You may not be the type of woman who is interested in listening to the stories of her own vaginal canal ... her pathway to life and wisdom.
And that's OK.
But, I hope you are interested in your vagina's health, pleasure and freedom.
All of that starts with one word. So say it.
Michele Brookhaus RSHom(NA), CCH is the playful creator of Yoni's Bliss, a homeopathic lubricating gel. She believes ALL women are entitled, worthy and capable of healthy happy vaginas.