For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked magazines.
My grandma used to always have a People or any number of trashy tabloids laying around that I loved to flip through and look at all the pictures of the celebrities and suspected space aliens.
My mom, too, always had a stack of magazines on the coffee table (those weren’t as fun though with all those recipes and craft projects). I’d take glitz and gossip any day over casseroles and crochet.
When I was old enough to buy my own rags, I opted for Cosmo, Elle, Glamour and People (always People — thanks, Grandma Kay!). I used to devour these publications every chance I got. I loved reading all the beauty tips, sex advice and ‘real-life’ confessions and, while I cringe to admit this now, I took it all to heart.
Fast forward a few years and you find me reaching for Vanity Fair, Maclean’s, Time, and, god help me, I still love my People. More often than not, though, you’ll find me with a book in my hand, but that’s a whole other blog post.
It had been a few years since I paid much attention to the women’s magazine section when the other day I found myself standing in front of a newsstand with my one-year-old daughter.
It was the typical stuff you’d expect from the women’s mag section: ‘Lose weight!’ ‘Love the skin you’re in!’ ‘Sex tips to blow his mind!’ ‘Look! Mama June is so important now because she had surgery and is skinny!’ and a whole whack of other conflicting messages for women.
I noticed that my daughter was looking at the covers too. She was drawn to all the bright colours. It made me keenly aware of the fact that in the not-too-distant future, she’s going to be able to read these headlines too. I took a closer look at the one she seemed most fascinated with.
It was bright, bright pink and featured a beautiful and buxom young singer. I was impressed that the cover girl wasn’t a size zero.
I started to read the headlines. They were, for the most part, what you would find on most magazines of this genre. ‘OMG Sex!’ and ‘Happiness Hacks!’ There was one, however, that made my hackles rise:
‘Love Your Lady Parts; Why you need to conquer low self-esteem down there.’
That’s right, ‘there’ was italicized.
It felt to me like the italicized there could almost be read as though someone is shuddering when they say it. I mean, what is the point of italicizing the word unless it’s to convey some sort of feeling towards the aforementioned ‘Lady Parts’? Is the design choice meant to be some sort of a wink and a nod? Like the vagina is some kind of dirty little secret? Is it meant to convey a sense of shame? Isn’t that the exact opposite of the message you’re trying to send?
Either way, the phrasing and the design pretty much yelled at me that ‘down there‘ is something we shouldn’t mention by name — kinda like Voldemort (hey! they both begin with V!) — and we need to tip-toe around any discussion of this body part.
I think I took such umbrage with this particular article because firstly, you’d never find this kind of shit on the cover of a men’s magazine; Men don’t need to be reminded to love their penises.
Secondly, I’ve always been very, very self-conscious of my ‘down there.‘ At times it’s even been a source of anxiety. This is because, society has done a damn good job of telling me — all of us — that our vaginas are shameful.
This bullshit line of vagina shaming crap has been shoved down our throats since biblical times — you can thank Eve and her apple-eating snatch for ruining it for the rest of us. The porn industry has done a fantastic job of pushing Barbie-like private parts on us and making those of us who won’t commit to plastic-looking vaginas feel less-than.
The history of vagina shaming is vast and there’s too much to cover here but here is a blog post that provides a decent summary.
The point is, I know that the magazine article is trying to empower women but it’s missing the mark so much so, that it’s actually part of the problem.
Upon reading the piece, there is some interesting (and sad) information to be found: women who are self conscious about their vagina are less likely to go for regular check-ups and are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. Women who are worried about the appearance and smell of their vagina miss out on sexual satisfaction and can even develop genital phobia that can lead to depression and isolation.
The piece offers a little advice on how to try and combat vagina shame but it really falls short by not celebrating the wonder and beauty of this body part.
I mean, without female reproductive organs, there would be no babies and it’s through ‘down there‘ that, if we’re lucky enough, we bring life to this world. Even though we have to fork over big bucks for our hygiene products and our periods can be quite uncomfortable (more so for some), the very biology and science behind our bodies and cycles is fascinating and truly awe inspiring.
And let’s not forget how pretty our lady bits are. They’re constantly compared to some of the most beautiful flowers and they’re pink and lovely.
The thing is, they can’t be too unpleasant seeing as how most men will do just about anything to get at our vaginas; Wars have even been fought over them.
It seems from the dawn of time, great effort has gone into making sure women know their place. One really effective way of fomenting subservience is to minimize the incredible power that comes with having a vagina; they are the giver of life and they are the one thing each and every person on earth has in common because it’s where we all come from. Women are practically godlike in their role as creators.
So to my daughter, and any other little girl who picks up a magazine that refers to this incredible body part as ‘down there,‘ remember that your body is a miracle — every single cell of it. If you ever come across something or someone that tells you or makes you feel otherwise, they’re wrong and their motives are suspect. Those things and people like that are not worthy of your time, energy or love.