Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Pussy Protector

Yes folks, you heard it straight up here at The Big Picture. And suffice to say - I am not referring to a cat carrier. Yes I am talking about the penultimate Yoni. After class today I leafed through the student paper and came across the title The Pussy Protector. Given that on the other page, there was a column with "shit" in the title, I thought 'classic...2 for 2 in the Catholic University student publication". So I read the article about the Pussy Protector just a little more closely.

Let me interrupt myself a little here. Anyone who knows me would know that I am not all that fond of the P word. I happen to loathe it as much as the C word. Maybe not as much, because it is evident that I more comfortable typing pussy - I can't even bring myself to think the C word. So the very fact that I am typing this just demonstrates that I am in new territory.

So, with my irk for the Pussy word firmly in my cerebral cortex, I read on. The article was about this contraption that I have heard very little about. It introduced the menstrual cup -or this silicone contraption used as an alternative to tampons and maxi pads. It is touted as being both an environmentally friendly and healthy feminine product (dioxin and bleach free). They do, more importantly, come with better names, such as Moon Cup and Diva Cup. And the companies can thank me later for all the free advertising. Maybe a free Moon cup per chance?

Then I got to thinking, about the pussy thing. Gee I still hate that name. I still hear it as a disrespectful slur. It's not about being a woman and all the wonderful events and contraptions that make us the complex and delightful creatures that we are - but Pussy (to me) is an object more or less, than ought to be penetrated. It's not a warm and fuzzy thing at all (pun intended). It's crude and rude and everything misogynistic. So, I found my response to the Pussy Protector somewhat mixed. I was glad to see a story about menstruation, but the pussy part irked me. Maybe the word is being reclaimed? Maybe I am just being a prude? Maybe I cringe only when I hear men use it?

I've been working with young women for the past 8 years, and there always comes a time when we have a class discussion about being all things female. I used to be surprised about how disparagingly women talk about their periods. How unpleasant, gross, repugnant, inconvenient and so on it is to menstruate. If we fundamentally hate one of the quintessential female experiences, then what is that saying about our female image in general? >Enter huge feminist rant here<

I remember in grad school writing a paper about Blue Water. I was demonstrating how social values, or the sanitizing and recoloring of menstruation on TV commercials had a deep affect on women in North America. This was a seminar class, and I bravely read my paper to a mixed class with a senior male professor. He genuinely thanked me for my presentation - and I never forgot my braveness and gumption. Years later, I was working with a group of girls who were interested in researching menstruation rituals. They did such a bang-up job on their work, and called it "Blue Water". It was one of those intoxifying teaching moments that we all wish we could inhale with every student.

Nevertheless...I am still not sure about this whole pussy business. And to be truthful, my first response to the thought of cleaning out the mooncup was "ick". Isn't that horrid? Of all the years of shit, piss, puss and puke I react in this way...how culturally relevant...

14 comments:

hotboy said...

Ooops! I thought you were blogging about those contraptions for chopping the willies off rapists. You can get flamethrowers attached to your motor in South Africa in case of hassles at traffic lights. What will they think of next? Hotboy

Eric said...

What are the socially acceptable words to refer to the human female's genitalia? I have heard a plethora of words amongst conversation with the boys, but I doubt any would be acceptable in civil company.

Heather said...

For men: Vagina. ;)

robmcj said...

I agree, I have never used the P-word, partly because I have only ever heard it used by sleaze-bag guys. As in "gonna get me some P-word tonight."

I have known women who used the C-word happily, and I would feel more relaxed with that. Though not in front of my mother, when vagina would be appropriate. Actually, nothing would be appropriate for my mother. Like the Queen, she doesn't actually possess a thingy.

What term is appropriate in the bedroom? "Vagina" is a bit medical.

Mary P. said...

I don't like 'pussy', either: it's patronizing. I do use the other (I'll call it the c-word out of deference for you) easily. Depends on the company, of course; I'm not in the business of deliberately offending people, but I think that for many women my age and education level, C has been reclaimed.

I've never seen it as sexist that that the c-word was/is used as a perjorative, because the words for the male organ are similarly misused. It's indicative of our residual sex taboos, not of misogyny.

In the bedroom, I use all those earthy words. Sex is earthy, raw, moist and aromatic - I like the words to reflect that. (Maybe I should start my very own sex blog next? LOL)

As for the cup thingy, I've used one in the past. Still sits in my bathroom cabinet. Not wanting to get into a discussion of its pros and cons, I'll leave it at that. The clean-up is quick and straightforward - especially, as you note, for a mother who deals with all manner of bodily fluids all the time!

Heather said...

Mary,

Thanks for your response - and your bit of experience! I am really surprised at your use of the C-word. I almost feel silly saying it like this! It's amazing how differing the cultural and political climates are between you and I - because that is usually a word used only as a form a violence. (Like she's a c..or Stupid C) I've never been in the company of women to hear it reclaimed in another context (women are more apt to use it disparagingly in this sense too).

As for pussy being misogynistic - I still concur. Like all words its context dependant. I'm not as irksom about women using it to refer to their yoni's, but I get more defensive with men. It has too many sexist connotations associated with it to hear it innocently (in my opinion). And most of the time it is not said - by men - innocently.

Ah but thats language - so bumpy and slippery and never all that precise!

Eric said...

I'm crushed. A pussy is a young kitty that's all soft and furry, begging to be kissed and caressed, yet it seems to be inappropriate to be used as a nickname for the vagina. Yet I'm hearing that the word cunt is somewhat acceptable? Get out of town!

If I wanted to use a word other than vagina (say I was writing an article for a student newspaper), then what words are okay? There are hundreds out there...

Heather said...

Oh God...Buddha and Allah above! YOU SAID it! Ugh. On MY BLOG!!

ugh!

Men!!

You're asking the wrong lady about the best term for vagina to use in a student newspaper. I've never admittded to being anything but repressed. I am partial to Yoni, The Holiest of Holies, There is also a bunch of slang here..

None of which I would advocate as a powerful positive term -Quim sounds pretty milk-toast...but it may have comepletely different connotations somewhere else...

robmcj said...

Mary P - you are a truly great woman.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm right with you Heather about the c-word. I will not be one to reclaim it.

Pussy doesn't horribly offend me but I wouldn't use it either.

To my four year old daughter I say you have a vulva and a vagina. Babies come out the vagina, and the vulva is the part that you can see. I *think* I've even told her about the clitoris but not without inwardly blushing furiously.

I've known women who call it "their stuff" "the equipment" "my package" "the little case". None of them are really satisfactory.

For a college newspaper? Ya' got me, I don't know. I was famous/imfamous in my small coed college dorm for reading aloud a passage from Penthouse letters in mixed company that said "and then he shot his wad of peckersnot into her fleshy folds of womanhood." Not really my proudest moment but I've never forgotten what has to be one the most ridiculous descriptions of sex ever. (Although I did like that it seemed more degrading to the man -- peckersnot, I mean, eww! -- than the woman.)

s

Mary P. said...

I've never liked to use "vagina" as a label for women's genitalia, because for a woman, the vagina is very much secondary in significance to the clitoris. To equate vagina with sex is to equate fulfilling sex solely with penetration, a very male perspective.

As for the P and C debate: It's a power thing. 'P' is, as Eric comments, a gentler word. Welcoming, soft, eminently pettable. Safe, cute as the dickens, and undemanding. Hmmm...

I am not a "young kitty" any more, and it would just feel silly to have any part of me addressed like that. Nor am I always safe, sweet, and undemanding! LOL

There's more power in 'c', and as blacks have reclaimed "black" and, amongst themselves, even "nigga", why can't women have "c" back? There's an edginess to it that P lacks.

Okay. How explicit and personal can I get here? I'm in my forties. I own my sexuality in a way I never did in my twenties. I can whisper that word in the right man's ear at the right time, and I am not demeaned, but rather empowered.

I note that in my own example, "nigga" is something certain blacks use amongst themselves - they would not welcome a white person using it. This is probably a good parallel for the word under discussion: potentially all right amongst women, but men may not presume, must be more cautious and less free with it. It's a matter of respect.

I still don't see much difference between a man calling a woman a "stupid c" and a woman calling a man a stupid pr-k". Both are aggressions, both equally violent.

Women use it disparagingly because they are too often embarrassed by the "realness" of sex, I think, perhaps embarrassed by their own sexuality? It's not ladylike, it's not "nice". Well, no, it's not - and it's better that way!

Hope I haven't offended anyone! (I guess I needn't worry about offending robmcj...)

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Heather:
How wonderful! If you're not discussing religion, you're discussing sexuality — my other favourite topic!

Since I am Mary P.'s partner, you can guess there's not much squeamishness about sex in our household … despite my interest in theology.

My guess is that the student newspaper used "pussy" just for the alliteration (pussy protector). It's altogether silly, since the cup you're discussing protects only your clothing, not your genitalia.

There are two principles at stake here. First, that women deserve respect. To refer to a woman as a pussy is to suggest that her only function is to gratify men sexually; the use of "pussy" in that sense is clearly demeaning.

(More often, in my experience, the word "pussy" is used to insult a man.)

Feminists have attempted to reclaim the c-word precisely because it sounds hard and edgy. It's the opposite of safe, gentle "pussy". (Mary P.'s reaction to the word captures it perfectly.)

Reclaiming the c-word is like reclaiming "bitch" — it's a strong word, one which suggests that women are powerful and intimidating.

Note that even when it is used as an insult, it has that connotation to it: "She's such a c*nt" implies that the woman in question has left you battered and bruised, that she has insisted on having her own way, instead of yielding to the man's wishes, as women are "supposed" to do.

The other principle is a woman's right to enjoy sex just as much as her man does. If a woman is embarrassed by her genitalia, she's not going to be comfortable having a man — brace yourself, Heather — put his face down there, for example.

It's a body part (or several body parts). To me, it's only a little different than talking about an elbow or an ear. The genitalia are more private, so you are careful about where and with whom you use the words. But with your spouse, or your son or daughter, or a close friend — it's no more taboo than any other body part.
Q

robmcj said...

I will not be reclaiming the word peckersnot. But since it's been raised (ahem), does anyone have a nicer word for it?

Q - you are more adventurous than me, I will need to ask my partner to let me have my way with her elbow. I'll report back.

robmcj said...

Come on boys, we're not trying.
These women can discuss their genital matters comfortably, yet we can't even come up with a liberated and perhaps more attractive term than the demeaning "peckersnot"? Hotboy, can you help?

Of course, here on UnHeard Island we call it penguin delight, but that doesn't really translate to other cultures.