Vulvas, gender and the real price of being female

In my living room right now are two little girls playing Monopoly. So far this morning they’ve discussed the following: the existence of God, what happens to your vagina when you give birth, and whether or not they are talking about vaginas and vulvas. Granted, I could have done without the 6:30 am wake up call asking me where I fit on the vagina/vulva debate.

<note for children who may be reading this: it is always too early to wake up to discussions on mislabelling of body parts within a patriarchal culture.>

The first debate could have been any child, but the second is a conversation that little girls have constantly because they are taught from birth that having a vulva isn’t something to be proud of – and if you don’t believe me, just look at the sheer number of threads on Mumsnet by women worried about what to call their daughter’s vulva: a foofoo, front bottom, or flower being continual suggestions. Can we just look at how stupid the term front bottom actually is? We never tell boys they have front bottoms – it’s only girls who are told their reproductive organs are dirty and probably full of pooh from birth. And, flower, besides being linguistically stupid, isn’t a “nice euphemism”. It’s a ridiculous term which makes it difficult for small children to explain if someone is hurting them. After all, the statement “he hurt my flower” could mean anything.

Children need to know basic biology . They need to understand how human reproduction works – and it isn’t like flowers do it – regardless of what you learned from Grease 2. It isn’t basic biology which is harmful to children, contrary to this rather ridiculous article in Slate.  It is the coercive gender roles we assign to male and female which harm children, as Glosswitch so eloquently writes. It is the idea that male children are A and female children are B which damages our children. It is telling boys they can be as violent as they want without repercussions and teaching girls that they are responsible for becoming a victim of male violence. That is harmful; not labelling an infant male or female (unless the child is intersex which, whilst rare, has not been handled appropriately by the medical profession).

When I gave birth to my daughters, I didn’t think they could only be nurses or that they could be whatever they wanted to be. When i gave birth to two girls, I thought about the likelihood they would become a victim of male violence.

When I gave birth, I thought about the increased risk they would live with for being born female:

  • child sexual abuse
  • rape as a teenager
  • rape as an adult
  • sexual harassment in the street, school and workplace
  • their increased risk for contracting STDs through PIV
  • their increased risk of contracting STDs from a male partner ejaculating in their mouth or eyes (as is increasingly common via porn)
  • the fact that most UTI in women are a direct consequence of PIV since men don’t tend to wash their penis after urinating (or hands for that matter)
  • the risk of unwanted pregnancy (and having no access to birth control or abortion)
  • the increased risk of domestic violence, stalking and harassment
  • the increased risk of being killed for being female

I also thought about the “privileges” of being female:

  • earning less than men for doing the same work
  • being fired for being pregnant
  • being forced out of the workplace because of childcare commitments
  • living in poverty because of piss poor pensions
  • living in poverty because they are raising children whilst the father makes no financial contribution
  • being less likely to work in senior management or on a board of a FTSE 500 company

And a 1000 other things which women are punished with for the crime of being born female in male supremacist culture. These punishments are not because we have vaginas, rather its because of the gender coercively assigned to biology which creates women as an inferior class. Gender needs to be abolished – not the biological reality of women’s bodies.

Our girls should be playing monopoly and discussing their bodies without feeling ashamed – but perhaps not at 6:30 in the morning.

 

Glosswitch’s response: Boy or Girl? Why not have a stereotype instead is a must read.

7 thoughts on “Vulvas, gender and the real price of being female

  1. I can’t really click ‘like’ because this is so profoundly sad (the level of worry you have to have). But I agree. I really do not get the euphemisms. I heard an adult woman talking about bikini-waking her vagina the other day. Which, you surely wouldn’t want to if you physically could! And all the people saying ‘oh, it isn’t very nice for little girls to know those words’ imply there’s something grown-up and sweary about them, which I suspect makes it harder for awkward teenagers doing biology. Ramifications all down the line.

  2. This is so, so cissexist. Like, I agree with your points, but that doesn’t negate the casual cissexism of this post.

    1. Acknowledging the biological reality of women’s bodies isn’t cissexist. Pretending that women don’t have a biological reality or that biology isn’t the reason women are oppressed is anti-feminist though.

      1. Would it really be that difficult to preface mentions of women in this article with “cis”? Or to have a sentence acknowledging the fact that some women don’t have this biology/not everyone with a vulva etc. is a woman? You could easily find a way to make your point without contributing to the erasure of trans, non-binary and intersex people.

    1. The vast majority of sexual abuse is committed by men. When women commit sexual violence, it is almost always with a dominating male partner. It is very, very rare for women to commit sexual abuse.

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