If there’s anything my fourth grade teacher taught me — aside from the importance of memorizing my multiplication tables — it’s the relevance of vocabulary. In school, words were my favorite. I adored spelling tests, reveled in playing dictionary roulette and now have a soft spot for the click-for-definition feature on the NewYorkTimes.com. However, there are a few words that irk me to no end. Like vagina.
Have you noticed how many words are gendered? Or, how many words regarding women are terribly sexist?
I mean, one of the most important parts of the female body is a pretty sexist term if you think about it. It’s the ultimate downer and it’s for our genitals — vagina — it sounds like an incurable infection. Eve Ensler had it right. No matter how many times you say it, “vagina” sounds so clinical and unappealing. Men get the simplicity and succinctness of “penis,” along with strong, powerful slang like “dick,” “cock” and “johnson.” The thing practically sounds like a law firm, or at least a Harvard educated lawyer.
And that’s precisely the point –everything about women and their bodies is referred to in diminutive, weak terms. “Pussy,” “snatch,” twat,” and “coochie” all sound like pet names — or worse, a waspy Connecticut wife who can’t even say the word “cunt” because she’s been taught to hate it so much. But maybe that’s precisely the problem, if we were given nicer names for out “naughty” bits, we wouldn’t feel the need to punish them with these stupid nicknames. Don’t even get me started on cat and cougar references.
Obviously, there’s nothing we can do about “vagina,” but the slang words are ridiculous! And, what’s worse, even pharmaceutical companies are contributing to the sexism of gendered language.
Even sexual enhancement drugs are getting the shaft (and not in a good way!). The FDA is currently reviewing what some are calling “Viagra for women.” Well, truth be told, it’s REAL name is Flibanserin. Flibanserin? Really? So, let me get this straight, not only am I a pussy with a bad case of vagina, Flibanserin is my only treatment option? Meanwhile, men get a Harvard legacy in their pants and Viagra, to boot.
VIAGRA: by definition, the most potent and virile drug name ever. Men get a drug that sounds like a superhero or spaceship to rocket them to pleasure island, but we’re supposed to swoon over a pill to make us feel like superheroes with an STD.
(Woman enters bedroom.) “Honey, I got Flibanserin.”
(Lover looks up, worried.) “Is it contagious?”
Who needs a bad name to confuse sexy time? I’m sorry, it may be a sign of equality that researcher even developed a sexual enhancement drug for women, but if it’s called Flibanserin, will anyone buy it? Hopefully, if the drug proves to be safe and (O-so) effective, marketing people can have their way with Flibanserin and conceive something better.