9 Comments

FAQ: vagina vs vulva and public “faces of feminism”

Q: A celebrity feminist said something about the incorrect usage of vagina vs vulva and I want you to explain every nuance of her thoughts to me and why feminism thinks that way.

A: “Feminism” doesn’t necessarily think that way just because that celebrity feminist does.
Possibly there is controversy about her opinion.
Possibly her opinion is highly unpopular.
Also, just a thought, possibly she didn’t actually say quite what you think she said?

This same sort of “justify feminism’s opinion on this” request gets made all the time based on the media asking celebrity feminists to opine on various matters, but the vulva/vagina distinction is a golden oldie, so why not let it be the model?

OK, let’s start with some anatomy revision. What you can see from the outside is the vulva (external genitalia). The canal that can be felt inside the vulva is the vagina (internal genitalia). It takes a torch* and a trusting woman in a cooperative mood for someone to be able to view the vagina. Yet pictures of naked women are routinely described as “showing the vagina” when all that can be seen is the vulva.

Every now and then some celebrity feminist makes a point of this distinction, and some remarks about why it could be that the error is so widespread. Sometimes this is done in a way that some people find confusing, especially if she is perhaps writing a playful book review for The Guardian rather than a keynote speech at a convention.

When that happens it appears to be a natural law that someone then demands an explanation of why “Feminism” believes whatever it is they think that the celebrity feminist said.

Several possible responses come to mind, depending on the circumstances:
(a) I don’t think she said what you think she said;
(b) you keep using that word – I don’t think it means what you think it means;
(c) she’s referencing some complicated theory there – you need to read more background;
(d) was sarcasm being deployed? aimed at whom?
(e) she speaks for herself. There is no feminist pope.

The last one is the most important one.

* from comments, for the Americans: a torch is what Brits and Aussies call what you folks call a flashlight

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About tigtog

writer, singer, webwrangler, blogger, comedy tragic | about.me/vivsmythe

9 comments on “FAQ: vagina vs vulva and public “faces of feminism”

  1. This parallels the old “explain to me why feminists yell at men for opening doors for them.”

    The door thing is even weirder since it’s hard to find an actual example of a woman yelling at a man for opening a door for her, but apparently every antifeminist man has had it happen to him.

    • Yep. If a guy holds a door open for me, I say thanks (just like I do if a woman holds a door open for me).

      What exasperates me is the subset of men who get bent out of shape when I hold a door open for them (instead of waiting placidly for them to catch up and open it for me).

  2. Or when the guy grabs the door out of my hands, thereby causing themselves to drop all the packages they were holding. It’s terrifying how many times this has happened to me.

  3. (f) Neither she, nor any other feminist, said it or anything like it, e.g. “All sex is rape.” Yet it still gets continuously falsely attributed in order to discredit feminism itself.

  4. “It takes a torch and a trusting woman in a cooperative mood” – yikes, for a moment I forgot ‘torch’ = ‘flashlight’.

  5. I love this blog! Is so funny, especially tigtog sometimes (her cookie present to phil was hilarious!); it provides insight and knowledge freely; and it helps me to understand myself and those surrounding me more. Great inspiration too.

    I hope I become good enough one day to carry the torch of the feminist cause, along the other many social, ethical issues that govern our short life.

    Thanks.

  6. Capitalism is weird. Enjoying reading through the FAQs when I stopped at a Google ad:
    “New Zealand Rich Women. Date Exceptionally Wealthy Women. Exclusive Elite Kiwi Personals!”
    Had the biggest laugh I’ve had for ages

  7. ” …It takes a torch and a trusting woman in a cooperative mood for someone to be able to view the vagina. … ”

    What a masterpiece of understatement.

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