All together now, let’s say it: vagina

By Chelsea Fiddyment

In conversation, I use the word “box.” I’m also a fan of “treasure chest” and “the Oval Office,” which I feel are underutilized. Never “cooch,” though – that sounds too cutesy. Vaginas should not be considered “cute.”

Regardless of what other terms I might opt toward for humor value, I’m quite comfortable with the word “vagina.” I don’t think there’s any better word out there for it. Call it what it is, right?

Except I’m surprised by how many people, especially women, are unsettled by it. And by “it,” I mean both the word and what it refers to.

Now, I’m not about to go on some tangent about how anybody with a vag should adore it and treat it like a sacred relic of female power. I don’t think it’s magical that a baby can come tearing out of there like an 8-pound cannonball. I don’t think shedding your uterine lining once a month is so empowering that you should collect it in a jar and paint with it (yes, that really happens).

I do, however, think it’s highly awesome that the vagina is self-cleaning.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

All in all, there isn’t enough talking going on about vaginas. Not like penises. The penis is commonplace, especially in college. If you live in a residence hall, you can probably look down your hallway and find at least one dry-erase board with a penis drawn on it. It’s a fact of college life that you will probably see at least one penis you didn’t want to when someone goes streaking past your room. Penises get talked about – and touched (and scratched, and adjusted and tucked away) – in public all the time.

But vaginas are complex. An Expo marker artist has to get detailed if they want to draw a vagina on someone’s board. You can’t create a vag emoticon in an IM conversation using numbers and symbols. In many places outside the U.S., it’s still acceptable, legally and culturally, to subject vaginas to any variety of mutilation: removal of the clitoris and/or the labia minora and even the stitching together of the labia majora, as well as any combination of these. And as for the C-U, well … at least one person was so upset by a rainbow tissue-paper vulva on a bulletin board last year that it was forced to be taken down.

We need to talk a lot more about vaginas, and I mean everybody.

“But why?” you might ask. “Why should we discuss female genitals all of a sudden?”

Because you have a great excuse to: next month boasts 2009’s V-Day, an international campaign to end violence against women and vaginas. Ask around about the campus production of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues and get involved with event planning. At the end of February, go see the show, especially if you don’t have a vagina.

More than anything, for all of you who are proud possessors of your own vajayjays, go all out. You may not be able to this year, but at some point in your life, audition for a role in the Vagina Monologues. It may be a little awkward at first. It might seem embarrassing to stand in front of a crowd and talk about your sweet spot and all its little secrets. But I guarantee it will be one of the most liberating experiences of your entire life.

There’s something about running through a crowd of people entreating them to shout a certain four-letter word that begins with a “c” at a volume that will fill a theater, something about moaning in public for charity, something about learning to understand the experiences of victims of sexual assault that may not make you adore your own vagina but will certainly bring you to terms with having one.

Being in the Monologues doesn’t just expand your awareness of all the issues centered on vaginas. It’s an encouragement to disrupt the consistent silence of women on those issues, from female genital mutilation to faking an orgasm. It goes far beyond the pop-trash sex writing in Cosmo.

It’s a validation of all the experiences that go along with having a vagina and a plea that we not only start representing vaginas everywhere but talking about them openly. Researchers, lobbyists, legislators, doctors, religious representatives, teachers, parents, everybody but the people with the vaginas seem to be making decisions about them. Isn’t it about time we spoke up?

Chelsea is a senior in English and creative writing and thinks the word “pussy” is lame. There are so many better names out there.