I am not my elbow, or any other body part

I was recently reading the comment section on a post about how Scott Adams of Dilbert fame wrote hateful things because I’d heard elsewhere on the internet that he’d made more of an ass of himself in the comment sections and I am a sucker for controversy. Come on, it’s the internet – we all are. Anyways, while I was reading the huge comments section, I happened across this one. Now, I agree with the author of this comment that gendered curse words, and especially the prevalence of curse words that disparage women and women’s anatomy are a problem(and one that it’s very easy in our culture to contribute to unthinkingly), but her comeback kind of bothers me.

Obviously, this isn’t the first time I’ve seen this personification of vaginas. I mean come on, this sort of description was used in The Vagina Monologues. I really dislike this. It’s one thing to work towards normalising the idea that hey, women have vaginas, but that doesn’t make them any different or license anyone to sexualise them because we are all people(and work on getting rid of the use of it as a swear). It’s another to personify it. “My ‘pussy’ is strong and assertive…,” “My vagina’s furious and it needs to talk.”* What do these even mean? Talk about defining yourself through your genitals.

So let’s get one thing straight. I have a vagina. My vagina does not have an Ariana. My vagina does not have a brain, and it does not have emotions. To say it does plays into centuries of people saying that women were not as good because being a woman(i.e. having a vagina and breasts and all of the rest) impairs rational thought and makes us hysterical. And seriously, no one looks rational when they try to personify their genitals, and I have seen both men and women do it. Yeah it’s an interesting comeback, but you’re not going win anyone over with it, or make them feel guilty. They, and people like me who agree with the general sentiment, are going to look at it, say “what the fuck,” and, if you’re really lucky, write a blog post about it.

-3 minutes left.

*Ensler, Eve, and Dramatists Play. The vagina monologues. Dramatist, 2000. Print.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a physical copy of the play on me, and I retrieved the quote from a website that didn’t mention page numbers, so I couldn’t cite them. It’s from the “My Angry Vagina” monologue.

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8 responses to “I am not my elbow, or any other body part

  • sincere bob

    I like your response, but on the same level of nitpicking: Personifying genitals does not immediately reduce the status of those whose genitals are personified. For instance, men have personified their penises FOREVER to blame them for their total lack of restraint, and they don’t seem to be treated as lesser for it. If anything, the personifying of genitals is simply a way to hide sexual violence.

    And, like, since you’ve seen the Vagina Monologues: What of the idea that personifying vaginas positively is a way to combat their *negative* personification (and other stereotypes)? Obviously, our post-human paradise will regard vaginas as mere flesh, if we even still have them. (And the author of that comment may well be aware of this fact.) Perhaps there’s still some emotional/spiritual value to defending the vagina in this way.

  • Nicothodes

    Actually, personifying penises is a negative stereotype. It’s part of the “men can’t control themselves, so women are responsible for withholding sex and teaching them how to be decent people” belief, which does not reflect well on either sex.

    I don’t think this is a good way to combat the negative personification because no matter what, you’re still reducing yourself to just a part of your body. The idea of equal rights is that it doesn’t matter what we’re packing, and by continuously personifying genitalia years after the shock value of talking about women being sexual is gone (which was the point of The Vagina Monologues) is continuing to put all of the focus on something that shouldn’t matter.

  • sincere bob

    I dunno how poorly defining men by their uncontrollable penises really is. I mean, as a rational human being, I enjoy not actually being controlled by my genitals; and other antisocial, enlightened creatures will feel the same. Nonetheless, society doesn’t really portray this “lack of control” as anything dangerous/shameful/etc. It’s certainly not grounds for punishment.

    And, I guess my other point is that even if this solution isn’t *ideal,* and even if we can identify its flaws accurately, it’s not clear to me that it’s *bad* per se. For instance, let’s say there’s someone transitioning out of devout Christianity: Maybe she needs to pray to God one last time, to confirm that she won’t get a response? Maybe if she doesn’t pray to God, she’ll have this lingering itch that’ll haunt her for years. We might, of course, point to the existence of that itch and say, “See, you have some underlying flaw.” And, we would be correct. But, getting her to see that both intellectually and emotionally are important and difficult tasks. So perhaps people will occasionally personify their vaginas positively to combat the negative stereotypes. While it’s not ideal, do we really know enough to say it’s *bad?*

  • sincere bob

    (But honestly, I adore your line: “My vagina does not have an Ariana.”)

  • sincere bob

    (Also, as an afterthought, part of it might be that we feel different emotions in different parts of our body: “Butterflies” in the tummy, courage in the chest/shoulders, whatever. I dunno how useful that suggestion is.)

  • Nicothodes

    There may not be a specific “punishment,” but the idea of not having control over yourself indicates less ability to think rationally, and results in lower expectations and a lack of respect for a person’s decisions.

    To be honest, I don’t think your analogy works. You’re comparing someone’s belief in a higher entity that has control over everything to a form of metaphorical speaking. I don’t think anyone who personifies their genitals actually believes that their genitals are thinking beings with emotions. My problem is that I have found this personification to be demeaning in most of the instances in which I’ve seen it used.

    As for the feeling emotions in parts of your bodies, again, that’s a physical reaction, it’s a not a trait. I know you list courage in the chest and shoulders, but I don’t know what you mean by that. I don’t know what a physical reaction to courage feels like. My chest and shoulders have tightened when I have been stressed or scared, but I would not say that my shoulders are stressed or that my chest is scared.

  • sincere bob

    Again, I simply insist that men’s supposed “lack of control” does not lead to any disrespect whatsoever, even if it should. 😛 As someone who has been identified by others as male, I can say that you receive tremendous (almost crushing) disrespect for NOT following your penis’ supposed urges. Rape is mandatory for mainstream masculinity, and accepting masculine violence is a precondition for perceived rationality. (Male aggression fuels the work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit blah blah blah.)

    And, like, it’s fine if my individual examples don’t speak to *you.* My only point is that I don’t know enough about people’s individual circumstances to say that Eve Ensler et al’s approach is *bad.* Obviously, it’s not ideal; but then again, the overwhelming majority of things are not ideal. My point is that the tactics of Ensler et al are probably good in some way for people: How else would her play be such a damn smashing success? Of course, the flaws you point out may suggest grounds for even more ingenious ways to fight sexual violence: I wouldn’t know. My only point is that I would need to more about the context of more women’s (and men’s) actual, lived experiences to know whether this is *bad* rather than *sub-optimal*… if that makes sense.

  • Nicothodes

    Except The Vagina Monologues wasn’t about using the tactic. The point of the play was to talk about women as sexual and able to enjoy sex, which hadn’t been done before. Today’s raunch culture has dated the show by removing the shock. I don’t consider most of the tactics used by the show to be relevant today, and I’ve repeated why I think this tactic in particular is demeaning multiple times now. As for the “lack of control,” I see it as a direct parallel to women being hysterical because they are women. If you don’t care, fine, but if that’s the case, I don’t see why you spend so much time repeating your thoughts on it on my blog.

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