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Forget Mo-Vember, Embrace Va-January

Posted: 01/12/2011 23:00

Now Movember's over and charitable chaps who've given over the space above their upper lips to pay homage to Merv Hughes or Groucho Marx reach for the razor, a 'copy'n paste' invitation comes my way via Facebook to participate in 'Fannuary'.

The concept is simple - no waxing, shaving or depilating of the pubic region for the month of January. 'Fannuary'. A less good joke than Movember, less charming and eccentric too, but essentially harmless, you'd think. So why then, does the post-post-feminist in me rebel against it?

The tyranny of pubic topiary aside (it's your landscape, and you are your own Capability Brown) it's the word 'Fannuary' that I object to. Why not 'Va-January' or better still, 'Va-Juna'? (I do understand that 'Va-Juna is less appealing given that June is the start of the holiday season and no-one wants their bikini to look as though it's hiding a Bulgarian revolutionary.) What's so wrong with the word 'vagina' that we have to substitute it with 'fanny'?

'Fanny' is a rubbish word. It's not sexy, erotic or descriptive and, unhelpfully, it means something different in the States, giving rise to endless, apparently hilarious, misunderstandings. Say the word 'vagina' however, and we all know where we are; we're on page 77 of the Year 9 Biology text book, shortly before the bit on childbirth where the kids pass out.

But it doesn't have to be this way. This summer, on the pages of a Sunday supplement, an advert for Mooncup exhorted the public to "love your vagina" by investing in one of their excellent, environmentally beneficial, menstrual cups. The font was large and bold. To see it was so exciting and unexpected that I jolly nearly dropped my coffee in the departures lounge at Gatwick.

You see, with the help of some lovely men and a shopping account at Myla I've been loving my vagina (and its nomenclature) since I flounced out of my convent boarding school and ended my affair with Jesus, who, on the whole, didn't have much to say about vaginas one way or the other. How thrilling to see an ad that spoke to me!

I have since seen the same advert in other magazines and the more I see it, the more familiar the word feels and the happier I am about using it. In an over-sexualised world, there aren't many taboos left, but this is one worth making an effort to break if we are to build a society where the vagina is not only loved and respected but openly articulated.

At a dinner party not so long ago, I got talking to the deputy head of a primary school and, somehow or other, conversation headed south.

"We call our little girl's you-know-what a 'twinkle'," he said.

"Very sweet," I replied, "but she does know that it's actually called a vagina, doesn't she? I mean, when they do it in Biology, she is going to know what the teacher's talking about, isn't she?"

"Oh no," he said, "she's only eight years old! We don't want to destroy her innocence!"

It was at this point that I realised that the linguistic tangle we've got ourselves into over what to call female genitalia, and the implicit messages we send when we re-term them is as much a problem now as it was when I came downstairs as a seven-year-old to tell my parents my 'front bottom' hurt.

"Giving your daughter language to describe her body will not destroy her innocence," I asserted. "Not giving her that language and leaving her to discover it by herself however, will send her a very negative message about her vagina that could last a bloody lifetime."

And let's face it, girls have enough negativity to work through as it is, for no body part was ever so powerful when used as an aggressive insult (largely by men). Is it any wonder our teenage girls are so reticent about confiding anxieties about what goes on 'down there'?

I'm not against twinkles and foofs and nu-nus and the rest (hell, I like nothing more than a rummage in my 'understairs cupboard') but what's wrong with a 'gina' (to rhyme with china) for little ones? It's close to the real thing and it's cutesy enough for those who need cutesy to alleviate their own embarrassment.

So, join me in rejecting 'Fannuary'. Not the concept, but the word. Embrace 'Va-January' and let's strike a blow for cunnilinguistics!

 

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