Vaginas are for Pussiesby Mahala High Five Brigade / Images by Alison Sutcliffe-Smit / 13.05.2011
On the subject of vertigo, author Milan Kundera once said that more than the simple fear of falling, it is rather “the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.”
Recently, this is a sentiment with which I can’t help but feel a particular affinity. Where it started doesn’t really matter. Soap operas, Huis Genoot, Reader’s Digest joke pages. Big Brother, celebrity microblogging, pony press political analysis. It’s all the same, really.. I’m talking about the consumption of content that bores us, that we loathe not because it is shocking or offensive or outrageous, but because it is annoying, dull and omnipresent.
Miley Cyrus videos. Perez Hilton. Evangelical Christian Infomercials. Bad 80’s porn. It’s like I woke up one morning and my screen had become a sort of Dinner For Idiots. Why we do this is anyone’s guess. Part irony, part masochism, we bring ourselves teetering to the edge of the Blah, until something jars us out of our inertia and we pull ourselves back, disgusted and terrified that we may lose our shaky foothold and fall to the pit of miscellaneous cultural debris that lies below.
A precipice from which I have recently jolted myself back has been the writings of a certain Paige Nick. For those unfamiliar with her, they can look at her blog here excerpts of which form her column in the Sunday Times. Entitled A Million Miles From Normal, the column/blog follows her various forays into modern personhood, and judging by the blog’s title picture (a Terry Richardson–esque shot of some hot piece of ass saucily pulled apart through flimsy knickers) one would expect a point of view that is sexy, provocative and “contemporary”. A “tongue in cheek take on the differences between men and women”, as she puts it.
And while this is the guise that Nick tries to assume, what it ultimately equates to on the page is a shaky finger’s failed attempts at finding “The Pulse”. The dull, vom-inducing drone of a women’s magazine, that, through its attempts to be “sassy” and “independent” just end up perpetuating the same old repressed, prudish rubbish that The Sexists have been pushing in our faces since forever ago anyway.
A good example would be last Sunday’s piece, in which Nick puts forth the ever pertinent question of whether Your Vagina Has A Name. In summary, a piece about the writer’s gee-gosh-giggle-blush task of naming her character’s “thingies” in her latest book. Far from the witty, provocative piece it thinks it is, what it ends up reading as is a middle aged woman’s inability to come to terms with the existence/name/use of her own vagina, and, it seems, vaginas in general.
Throughout, she regales how when engaging in this apparently filthy and embarrassing task, she “would freeze, type in a word. Blush… then hang [her] head in shame…” And how, as a result of these “gross” words “the sex [she] was writing about instantly became less romantic…”
Really Paige Nick, really? If that’s your reaction to writing about vaginas, one can only imagine what happens when you try and have a bit of fun with your own. Look, female sexuality is a minefield of opinion and perspective. Virgins, whores, Sex and the City, bra burning, Gloria Steinem, teen pop idols… to each their own interpretation. But whether you like your views pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen or sliding down a stripper pole to pay for your law degree, the one thing I was pretty sure of last time I checked was that it was perfectly okay to call a vagina a vagina. Or a pussy. Or a vag. Or, what Nick dubs “…the ever hideous and unacceptable ‘C’ word, which is too loaded to even type out in full.”
Well excuse me miss uptight panties. What’s with this wave of neo-conservatism? All those years our parents fought for liberation, for equality, and now we’re slipping back into Reagan-era family values, fawning over doilies on ETSY, tut-tutting over “too-tight” dresses and blushing at the mention of our own “thingies”. I have a cunt. So sue me. So does the queen. And, incidentally, my ex boyfriend is one. I like the word. As an insult, as an anatomical term, as an expression of endearment… Does that make me “silly, totally derogatory or really disgusting?” What about Anais Nin? Erica Jong? Remember the Vagina Monologues? If Oprah can stand on a stage and say Cunt, Paige Nick, so can you. Cunt is the new black.
But let’s take “you” out of it for a second. On a more philosophical level, names are important things. Ask any linguist (cunning or otherwise, lolz lolz). Names reveal our attitudes towards and understandings of the objects they represent. They give them identity and power and legitimacy. Why then were you “tempted to just leave blank spaces in the book, where the words should be.” Is that what vaginas are? Blank spaces into which the “audience” may insert whatever definition they please? Insert here? Mmm. Freudian! And pretty troublesome in our exciting times of corrective rape, homophobia and gender-based violence.
Blank spaces are dangerous. Silence is dangerous. Being ashamed of and alienated from your body is dangerous. One has to look no further than Harry Potter to understand that “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” exemplifies the evil and the debased. Many a subtext is revealed in jest, and as benign as intentions may be, to suggest the vagina is some sort of anatomical Voldemort is both archaic and insulting. Not to mention indicative of someone so out of touch with the subject matter that one may questions their business writing about it in the first place.
My advice? Next time you want to publicly opine on vaginas (or, for that matter, write and publish sex scenes involving them), take a deep breath, get over your repressed bullshit and step into 2011. Your ladyparts deserve a name. And while you’re at it, prefferabley something smart, like “Einstein”. After all, the last thing the world needs is another stupid cunt.
*Images © Alison Sutcliffe-Smit.