by: Khai Devon
I’m going to talk about my vagina, in this piece. Be forewarned. I will probably mention the word vagina at least, say, twenty more times (you’re more than welcome to count along with me and see if I make it or not) in the next few hundred words. And not one of you will be shocked, because, well, there’s not all that much shocking about a vagina (1, and also apologies to Eve Ensler), even one such as the one which belongs to me, a person who is distinctly not a woman and yet, as the possessor of a vagina (2) is very much interested in laws dictating what can or can not be done with my vagina (3) and the accoutrements thereof, including my uterus and the fetus that may someday be implanted there, with or without my consent.
Katie Roiphe, a columnist at Slate, recently wrote that the use of the word “vagina” (4) is no longer shocking, and that using it in a way that is supposed to be shocking, or even more importantly, in a way that is referencing how very not shocking the word vagina (5) is, is “a tired, liberal trope.” And she may be right. It’s disconcerting to see “woman” reduced to an anthropomorphized set of genitalia, as she is in every one of the articles Roiphe links to as support for her claim. Ladies, you are not your vaginas (6) as I am not my vagina (7) and you are not not women if you do not possess a vagina (8).
And yet, at the same time, with lawmakers buying into the self-same puritanical obsession that Roiphe is arguing against, and making laws that regulate the vagina (9) and its accoutrements, saying that this is a “woman’s health law” or “an issue of women’s rights” or otherwise, I guess, sanitizing what is going on when these laws are created, glosses over the issue here. Lawmakers aren’t making laws that relate to women, in general. They are making laws that relate to the possessors of a specific type of genitalia and reproductive organs, and making laws that govern how we, as the possessors of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and *gasp* vaginas (10!) can access health care related to those parts of our bodies. Maybe we should all be using the word—not for its shock value, that’s obviously overplayed—and not for its transphobic and misogynistic ability to reduce “woman” to “vagina” (11).
Maybe, we should all be saying “vagina” (12) and uterus, and fallopian tubes, and ovaries, and menses, and maybe the discourse shouldn’t be about how “our vaginas (13) sigh” when some boy says something, but about how the government is creating laws that parcel us into body parts, and assign us status, and access to basic health care based on those parts. Surely it’s not squeamish, or purposely ironic and self-referential to say that “the government made a law restricting my right to decide what happens with my uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and vagina (14)”—when in fact that is what happens. The government didn’t make a law restricting my health care to all parts of my body. If I break my arm, I’m still allowed to get that fixed. If I need muscle relaxers because I hurt my back, I have access to those. But, as most of the laws regarding specifically the possessors of vaginas (16) would dictate, I would no longer have access to health care regarding my genitalia.
And that’s worth any amount of shock, and overuse of the word, and polarization. That should be polarizing! It should absolutely be us (those who believe in people having access to healthcare and choosing what to do with their own bodies [entire]) against them (lawmakers who would take that right away). And we should win. Roiphe may be right that some of the ways “vagina” (18) is used are tired, overplayed, and silly. But she is not right that we should stop specifically calling out vagina-centric (19) laws as just that—centered on the vagina (20) and, as always, it’s accoutrements.
Khai Devon is. Some days, that feels like an accomplishment. Other days, sie brags about hirself by telling people sie graduated from The College of Idaho with a degree in Psychology, and now has a career in customer service, because obviously. Sie blogs semi-regularly at duffelbagandadream.wordpress.com, tweets (@poetichope) and updates hir facebook status more than is healthy, with observations about life as sie experiences it. Sie enjoys caramel lattes, Camel cigarettes, and telling people sie is writing a novel, which is almost always the truth. Sie is always willing to hear from anyone who wants to chat, and you can contact zir at firstname.lastname@example.org.