My Vagina is Not Profane: Why Can’t We Talk About Anatomy in Schools?
There is something seriously wrong with a society that turns a clinical, anatomical term into a dirty word. The only word for a vagina is vagina. There is no other term that applies. Sure, there are plenty of derogatory phrases and euphemisms to choose from, but when the vagina is being talked about by reasonable, rational, mature adults, the only appropriate word to use is vagina. If you wish to generalize, genitalia is something that can be used alternatively, but genitalia encompasses far more than the vagina, including penises, so it’s important to differentiate.
Recently, school teacher Tim McDaniel has been under investigation by the Dietrich, Idaho, school board, because several parents lodged complaints against him regarding his teaching methods. A portion of the complaint was directed toward his use of the word vagina. In an area of the country where the vast majority of church-goers are Mormons, perhaps it isn’t surprising that the word vagina is considered profanity within the community. Tim McDaniel was teaching his students about human reproduction in his science class. He was also sourcing his material from the textbooks that had been a part of the school district’s curriculum for some time.
This isn’t the first instance where a group of people, based on their religious beliefs, have interfered with the public education system. Now, in the United States, legally there is supposed to be a separation between church and state. It’s part of the U.S. Constitution, in fact. No religion should be interfering in any school teachings in a public school system. If you want your children taught based on your religious precepts, you are supposed to send them to a privately funded school system or homeschool them. Your religious beliefs have nothing to do with the religious beliefs of the other children in the school, and since you are not the parent of those other students, you have no say in how they are taught. That’s the whole point to religious freedom.
In Louisiana there exists something called the Louisiana Science Education Act. Termed ‘creationism law’ by its detractors, this law allows teachers to supplant standard science textbooks with creationism texts. This may not have been its original intent, but it is certainly turning out to be the case. Activist Zack Koppelin has been trying to have this act repealed since it was enacted in 2008. At the time he started his fight, he was in high school. At the time of this writing he is still only 19-years-old. However, despite his youth, his efforts are being backed by scientific societies collectively representing millions of scientists. The campaign is also being endorsed by 78 Nobel laureates and the New Orleans city council.
Interference in education is a long-established practice, and not just in formal educational institutions. Public libraries are protested when they carry books that various religions or communities don’t approve of. Author Gayle Brandeis, author of My Life with the Lincolns, had her own experiences with having her book banned from libraries for her very innocent use of the word vagina. In this case it was a humorous word-use mistake made by a teenager, when another teenager used the word angina. The word wasn’t even being used to reference sex or reproduction.
In June of 2012, Michigan House State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were barred from participating in floor debates for a day. In the case of Lisa Brown, she protested anti-abortion bills by stating, “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’” Byrum was not recognized to speak, and so she shouted at the presiding officer. Brown was very specifically barred for using the word vagina.
Of course, none of these so-called reasons should even apply. A vagina is a part of human anatomy. Approximately half of the world is in possession of one. It is no different from any other body part. So how is it that the word has been painted with the brush of profanity? Where did this perversion of meaning come from?
Where it has always come from, of course. It comes from fear and hatred of women, and quite often the fear and hatred come from other women, which is a sad thing to see. Ignorance promotes this fear. Ignorance comes from lack of education. Education is exactly what Tim McDaniel is trying to promote in his classroom.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word vagina. It is not a dirty word. It’s not profanity in any way. It’s not about sex until you start to discuss a penis being inserted into a vagina. Women’s health in general is not about sex, and there are many things that involve that vagina that also have nothing to do with sex. Vaginal cancer, bacterial infections, and any number of other health concerns are things that may need to be addressed.
Sex itself is not dirty. Reproduction is not a sin. The issues of puberty and menstruation need to be talked about with young people so that they understand what is going on with their bodies. There aren’t many things that are more frightening to a teenage girl than suddenly bleeding from a body part she doesn’t even know the name of!
Written by Rain Stickland
December 18, 2013
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