My wish is simply this: May none of you ever again be brought to national attention for thinking you simply smell human.
This is a post about vaginas.
Which — my computer is telling me right now — is misspelled. Is a word that does not exist. Because apparently vaginas need to exist only in the singular (as an Ur-Vagina, perhaps, or some other All Hail to the V! kinda proposition) or else I’m supposed to render it plural only after the Latinate vaginae, which nope. Just nope.
I’m taking vaginas back from you, Spellcheck — and from all others who misunderstand the common, average, workaday nature of these organs sported by the lower half of approximately 50% of the human race.
But lemme back up a moment.
Today’s little rant o’ mine began not quite a month ago with, ICYMI, this:
In the particular femi-sphere of the world that I inhabit, the announcement that two dudebros, Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, were out hawking a startup company to “bio-hack” the aforementioned vaginas –and their purportedly malodorous aromas — was met with mockery, annoyance, and a moderate level of teeth-gnashing. As Nitasha Tiku initially reported, the two gentlemen positioned themselves as virtual human rights activists on a mission:
Sweet Peach will have practical benefits, like preventing yeast infections and other health problems caused by microorganisms, Heinz said in his presentation. But the ambition behind it is a loftier one.
“The idea is personal empowerment,” he said. “All your smells are not human. They’re produced by the creatures that live on you.”
“We think it’s a fundamental human right to not only know your code and the code of the things that live on you but also to rewrite that code and personalize it,” Gome chimed in.
Oh, I gotcha, dudebros! This is about EMPOWERMENT. That catchy one-word idea that tells us we’re all just a single uplifting-lyric’ed-tune-with-a-good-dance-beat away from being fully franchised in our own lives.
Personally, I find it more of a fundamental human right — or, at the very least, more of a reasonable expectation — not to have to put up with national discourse about how much of me is or is not actually human: be that smell, flesh, brain, skills, or pretty much any part of my whole kit-and-kaboodle. (As my friend K put it, “Why can’t they just leave us alone??”)
And then the story got worse.
Turns out Messieurs Dudebro were not even pitching their own startup. Sweet Peach — a company neither man started and in which only one even owns a (very small) share — is actually the brainchild and property of Audrey Hutchinson, a 20-y.o. woman who sounds absolutely sharp and delightful once reporters actually start talking to her. (“There is nothing I can’t overcome. I am a young woman in 2014,” she told the guy from Modern Farmer.)
Also? Those less-than-lofty goals Heinz mentioned — the whole “health-enhancing practical benefits that pale in comparison with the noble ambition of helping ciswomen, and other people with vaginae, smell AS HUMAN AS the models that come otherwise equipped” — turn out to be the whole intent behind Hutchinson’s startup: she wants to enable women to be better managers of their own reproductive health.
In fact, as Hutchinson told Inc., the ‘ultrafeminist’ in her was so appalled by the misrepresentation of her mission and subsequent media freakout that she vomited — twice — and now “want[s] to apologize to every woman in the world who’s heard about this and wants [her] head on a stake.”
Oh you sweet child. You sweet peach of a child. You don’t need to apologize to us.
Though I almost wanted to apologize to Hutchinson, when I read her explanation about where the company name “Sweet Peach” came from:
“[I] compiled a list of beautiful ways vaginas were described in literature. That was a week alone looking up euphemisms….
“I was thinking of a name that would be catchy, cute and playful, because a big part of the company is trying to make vaginal health something we feel comfortable talking about.”
I’m sorry, Ms. Hutchinson. I’m so very very sorry. In the year of our Lorde 2014, there is no reason you should have felt compelled to spend an entire week just finding a happy, comfortable way to say “vagina.”
No good reason, that is. Plenty of bad reasons, in a Western culture that locates its origin-of-civilization story near the feet of nice Greek gents who thought semen came directly from men’s brains, right up to your own personal dudebro-ish mouthpiece who expects everyone will join him on his bandwagon dream of IF ONLY VAGINAS TASTED AS GOOD AS DIET COKE.
So I get it.
Please know you’re not alone in your quest for a sexual-organ pet name that isn’t derogatory, crude, rude, silly, annoying, patronizing, insulting, graphic, disgusting, or just plain skeevy. It’s an evergreen, lady’s-favorite topic. To get some ideas that might sound less FDS Woman-inspired, check out:
~ vagina euphemisms from Buzzfeed
~ Georgian Age euphemisms from kidspot.com
~ colonial era favorites from HyperVocal
~ top historical options from xoJane
~ perspectives from an erotic novelist (though, upon seeing this author’s inclusion of “vulva” in a list of ‘Badly Named Body Parts’ that also includes “honeypot” and “netherlips,” my Inner Den Mother kinda wants to take her aside for a little ‘Birds, Bees, and Basic Anatomy’ conversation)
~ and finally, from Feministing, this handy pocket euphemism guide.
If all that fails to inspire, you can always go with the suggestion offered by my happy hour drinking companion Monday night, after she patiently listened to me rehearse this whole rant: “Why don’t we just call them…VAGINAS.”
Why not, indeed.
Now — just in case Ms. Hutchinson or any of her compatriots ever need reminding of just how badass vaginas are (which is to say: BADASS AS A SHARK) — I’m gonna close this post out with two of my favorite Vagina Music tunes.
Feel free to feel empowered.