While back in Wisconsin, I spent some time hearing delightful stories about little kids discovering their sex organs: one version went like this…”What’s this daddy?” “Uh…ummm…ask Mommy about that…” another version ended with “That’s your vagina.” “Bagina?” (asked incredulously, followed by peals of laughter and multiple mutterings of “bagina”).
Then, there was the awkward laughter that comes from those who are uncomfortable with these stories about discovering sex organs. Proof positive that while we all have sex organs, and we all have to talk about them at some point in our lives, we’re not all exactly comfortable with the specific language.
Despite this reality, I was still shocked to discover the “Vaginagate” scandal.
From the little bits I read about Vaginagate, I discerned that somewhere in Michigan lawmakers wanted to talk about reproductive rights that are at stake in the Michigan legislature. In doing so, the word vagina came up a few times. Then a couple of lawmakers added a touch of humor and the word “vagina” – and some other lawmakers got upset and declared “vagina” a dirty word.
The scientific word to describe a sex organ is now vulgar and offensive?
This is the word that we teach children in school and in homes. This word is now the enemy of some lawmakers? And those lawmakers not only had enough gall to choose this attack against the word and the opposing lawmakers, but they had enough power and persuasion to get agreement to punish the “vagina”-speakers (brings up a whole different image, doesn’t it?).
It boggles my mind. It sounds much more like middle school student council than a state legislature (clearly I’ve never worked in state legislature, you are correct). Regardless of the adolescent antics we associate with politics on most levels, I am completely flabbergasted that people actually voted to punish their colleagues for using the word “vagina.”
I began to wonder whether this would ever happen in Italy. I have no clues as to what cultural response Italians would have to the word vagina, it hasn’t come up with my Sicilian colleagues (after all, I work in Supply Management, and we do not supply vaginas or vagina accessories). Yet, a local ceramic producer valued The Gyne Cologist enough to include an image of one among decorative plaques like this:
This plaque was among a dozen or so profession caricatures available from this ceramic artist; doctor (general practice presumably), lawyer, veterinarian, and mechanic were also among the mix (notably, all were male representations).
In case you were curious, the Italian word for vagina is vagina. Yep, same exact spelling. Spoken a little differently, “vah” “gee” “nah” would be in the ball park of the Italian pronunciation (instead of “vah” “jie” “nah”).
Which brings me to my point. The Michigan lawmakers should have just sung “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” instead of punishing their respected colleagues.
Of course, the lyrics would need a slight modification…
I say “vagina”
and you say “vagina”
Let’s call the whole thing off!