The Sexist

Sexist Comments of the Week: Vagina Vagina Vagina Edition


Last week on the Sexist, readers sounded off on the new Kotex ad that isn't allowed to utter the sound "vuh-jahy-nuh," we parsed the difference between the "vulva" and the "vagina," and one commenter received some Very Special terminology instruction on the meaning of "tampon." Let's do this point-counterpoint style, shall we?

POINT: Censoring the word "vagina" is an absurd and sexist practice. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten on the Post's history of not saying "vagina" in print:

On this subject, I’d like to reprise a Comment I once made in this very forum a few months ago:

Meanwhile, I’d like to share a story apropos of the argument about whether women “are” their body parts. Back in the 1990s I was editing a story by Laura Blumenfeld about the then-trendy topic of the female condom. When we were done with it, the story had to be approved by a top editor at the paper, because it was about sex, and The Post was very, very nervous about sex. The editor liked the story, but he asked us to take out the word “vagina,” which he found distasteful. (Er, he found the WORD distasteful.)

Laura and I argued strenuously that you cannot write a story about the female condom without indicating how it is used, and that it is absolutely impossible to explain this without using the v word. And that there is nothing wrong with the v word.

The editor got all huffy and declared that he would rewrite it himself, which he did. And so there appeared the following line in The Washington Post; it is still in the archives: “The female condom lines the inside of a woman.”

Voila! In trying to be tasteful and sensitive, this editor put into the Washington Post a line SPECIFICALLY equating a woman with her ladypart.

COUNTERPOINT: Censoring the word "vagina" is an absurd and sexist practice . . . inflicted against men by those danged feminist groups! Also, forget "vagina!" Why can't I say "pussy"? Jeff lays it all down for us:

Did you ever think that women will complain if the word vagina is used and the networks don’t want letters and calls from thousands of women. It’s why words for male genitals are used routinely throughout every show on TV, but you will never hear a slang word for female genitalia. I have heard balls, nuts, dick, pecker, prick, dickhead, and even cock during prime-time on all channels. Why can’t tits or pussy be used? It’s because of the backlash from women’s groups and many women in general.

Could you imagine how many letters and calls NBC would receive if the show Parks and Recreation used the word pussy. But I heard the word dick and balls during the last episode. It’s ok for mainstream media to be sexist and bash men, use words for male genitalia, portray men as bumbling idiots, but not women.

It’s even ok to show men nude in basic cable shows, but never women. Movies and cable shows even have started showing penises regularly, but a vagina is forbidden. It’s given an NC-17 if they try to show it. Only pubic hair or a boob is allowed because women think showing a vagina degrades them. Even the show Spartacus shows penises every episode, but they won’t show a vulva so they make the women wear merkins to cover them up.

So in the end, blame women and women’s groups for acting like a vagina is so vulgar.

Does "A Vagina Is Forbidden" sound like a catchphrase used to sell diamonds to anyone else? And speaking of the difference between the vagina and the vulva, I, too, am interested in basic cable showing more of the internal canal leading to a woman's uterus. Also, why aren't these ancient Roman women depicted with totally bald genitalia? Sexism!

  • Martin Brant

    I've never understood why we have such a problem with body acceptance in America. Coming out of the sixties, I thought these misguided mores were finally behind us, but it has actually gotten worse; ie Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. Perhaps some generation in the future will get it right.

  • Em

    Vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina!

    There. All better?

  • Jess

    Is the commenter "Jeff" being ironic? I hope so, or else the TV he's been watching is the complete and total opposite of the TV I've been watching.

  • E

    Hey, I like this article but I think the "Very Special terminology instruction" part is a little unfair since the commenter was not a native English speaker. Maybe she hadn't explained herself when you wrote this but she has now.

  • je di

    Vulva la revolucion!

  • Emily

    Wait, every woman has a "vagina"? Not familiar with the term; "sex ed" didn't tell me much in high school, so I learned everything through mainstream media. Which has never called any of my lady parts a "vagina."


  • Taryn

    I'm confused... its *Women's* fault that the word Vagina can't be used in print? Because We (being the women) won't like it? Gosh, it all makes sense now..

  • Dorothy Hickson

    I once wrote a letter to the Wash.Post complaining about an article on, of all things, late-term abortion, in which they used the term "birth canal." Way to slant your language to the right, dudes. I believe my recommendation was that they should start calling the penis a "sperm tunnel."