The Progression of the Word Vagina in Public Life
Last night I watched an interview with Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues.
In the piece she mentioned that when she wrote the play in 1996, CNN did a whole feature on the show and didn’t mention the word Vagina once. Fast forward 20 years and Eve was throwing the word around with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 like nobody's business.
I don’t know about you but I vaguely remember The Vagina Monologues emanating through popular culture even though I was nine when it premiered. I remember it being represented as ‘angry feminists shouting on stage’ and a play that should be sneered at.
Why on earth would women want to talk about their bodies and sexuality in such an explicit way without even bothering to make it sexy?
From that point countless references were made to it in pop culture and they all referred to it negatively. Who remembers the scene in Friends when Joey buys them all tickets to a one woman show that only Chandler turns up to and the opening scene is ‘My First Period’? He ends up buying the rest of them tickets to punish them for leaving him out of the rooftop party they attended instead of going the theatre.
When I launched Elvie’s pelvic floor trainer to market in 2015, not a single journalist wanted to write about something that went into a vagina and certainly no-one used that word. We had to use our very best efforts to say everything without possibly mentioning something as explicit as vagina. VAGINA. But slowly we managed to change the hearts and minds of the editors and the word started making it’s way into the copy.
In 2019 however, we are celebrating the word, and the body part, more than ever and it is wonderful. Last month Channel 4 ran a whole show called 100 Vaginas, an exploration into the impact vaginas have on women’s lives - run by the artist Laura Dodsworth. I’m still not sure you’d have a whole show dedicated to how a penis has impacted a man’s life but I’m still happy to see a positive representation of vaginas - or vulvas actually - that are reflections of real women’s bodies and not just the manicured porn vulvas we have become accustomed to.
I feel proud to have been a part of the change and to have played a role in the normalising of vaginas in popular culture. I will continue to do so without shame and with great celebration!
Let’s continue to talk, educate and celebrate vaginas and vulvas in all their shapes and sizes.