Why I'm Teaching My Daughters To Use The F Word

22/12/2014 10:20 | Updated 20 May 2015

Mother Cuddling Daughter At Home

When my son was born, the question of what was between his legs was never an issue. It was a willy from day one. No doubt he will learn other cruder expressions when he's older, but until then, it's a willy. Yet when my first daughter was born, the issue of what to call her 'bits' seemed rather more contentious.

In the end I gave up trying to come up with something twee and carried on calling it - gasp - a fanny. It's what mine is called, why should hers be any different?

Yet on the odd occasion when my daughter has innocently used the f word in front of other mums, they practically recoil in disgust and disbelief. Allowing my sweet little girl to use such vile and offensive language, or even to refer to her genitalia in the first place, is apparently not the done thing.

Most of us don't teach our little boys to say penis so why should little girls be made to say vagina? If she falls and hurts her knee, I don't say 'have you hurt your patella?' Vagina is fine – if you're talking to a midwife. But for a pre-schooler it seems a little unnecessarily anatomical. However, I refuse to call it any of those dreadful little euphemisms I often hear other mums use.

It's not a froo-froo or a lala, or any other member of the Teletubbies. Call it a fanny, call it a vagina if you prefer. But it's not a kitty (hello?) or a nooni. And while we're on the subject, nor is it a minnie (not once you've pushed a baby or three out of it, anyway) a twinkle (little star?) or a front bottom (one anus is quite enough.)

One woman even told me she called hers a Mary, which only made me want to enquire if she once referred to it as the Virgin Mary. (She was lovely, so I refrained.) Although a bloody Mary also springs to mind. Worcester sauce anyone?

On the issue of names, my daughter once informed me that her pants were called Nicola. Baffled, I eventually worked out she meant knickers, a word I can only assume she picked up at nursery.

Socks, vests, jumpers, pyjamas, nappies - they're all the same whether you're a boy or a girl. So why do we need separate terminology for male and female underwear?

In our house they're pants. Hers, mine, her brother's and their dad's (but we won't go there.) The word knickers makes me want to heave - though not quite as much as minnie and twinkle.

For thousands of people, knickers is probably about as normal as saying T-shirt or toothpaste. But for me, it conjures up images of big, billowy, lacy things, blowing on the line; of elderly aunts, and condescending males (or females) who use phrases like: don't get your knickers in a twist ... keep your knickers on. Yet another way vocabulary is used to undermine women.

Pants on the other hand are egalitarian and impartial. They cover a multitude of possibilities (and fannies) and do away with complicated technicalities like G-strings, garters, bikinis, briefs, low rise shorts and thongs – which are just confusing if you're an Australian, and pants on feet aren't a good look.

Now it's the summer holidays, my daughter seems to have forgotten about knickers and is back in the pants camp. I'm also proud to say she has never used the expression 'twinkle' (except in the nursery rhyme) and has no qualms about using the F word. ''Mummy, I've got a fanny like you.''

Of course, when my daughters (currently aged four and one) are a bit older, I will make them aware that fannies also have 'proper' medical names. Just as I will make them aware of some very serious issues. Issues that need serious words. Issues I seriously hope we will never have to deal with.


But I will never teach any of my children to use names that could be mistaken for glittery little fairies with gossamer wings. Because what do all these verbal excuses and euphemisms teach our daughters? That she can't mention the thing between her legs without wrapping it up in pretty pink paper and dowsing it in deodorant, until it looks and smells completely unrecognisable?


That it's OK for boys to talk, even laugh, about willies, but that girls need to be embarrassed about the very thing that (biologically at least) makes them female?

The word fanny is empowering, unashamed, and yes even amusing – and I hope this is how my daughters will feel about their sexuality in the future. So in my family, it's a fanny.

I want my daughters (and my son) to know that fannies are fine – they're not rude, they're not distasteful and it's fine to be proud of them.

Let's stop fannying about and reclaim the f word.

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