For the past few weeks I have been rendered into mute horror and stormy rage over a particular advertising campaign. The love your vagina campaign. You must have seen it - large posters full of pink, purple and glitzy bits of fluff, diamante or ribbons spelling out the cutesy irritating names that women are taught to call their genitalia. I am taken with a massive urge to print out enormous A1 posters full of black, curly hair and daubs of red blood which spell out the word "cunt". We cannot possibly love our vaginas whilst we continue to view them in diminutive, prettified and unrealistic terms. That is not love, that is not even acceptance. That is trying to make parts of us go away, to reduce them to metaphor, to weaken and dilute them until they are as socially palatable and "feminized" as big tits, bland expressions, long hair and passive behaviour.
I have no issue with what individual women chose to call bits of their bodies. Equally I have no issue with what individual women chose to look like. Assuming that those are real choices. Assuming that those choices aren't made because of the crushing tidal wave of opinion over how women should look and how women should talk about their own bodies. Advertising campaigns like this do not free women to talk about themselves - they narrow the goalposts by expressing only the soft pink, flowery language. They make women into girls. Cunt into fu-fu. And that is not acceptable.
Now, I love language. I love variety and difference in language, the way that it allows us to express ourselves in a wide range of ways and how it gives us our identities. Which is why this feminising lexicon needs not to be shut down, but blown open. So, I heartily encourage you to add to the campaign by entering the word "cunt" on the website. When I typed it in, it had a pleasing 912 votes. Unlike "pum pum", "nether petals" or "twinkle". I can barely write these with a straight face. I know that they are silly words, funny words and that they make you giggle. There's nothing wrong with being funny. What is wrong is only having joke words, only feeling able to use silly language.
Which is strange, because it's not a silly product. It is, in fact, a product that requires the women who use it to have a more hands-on and grown-up approach to the cunt. The product in question is the Mooncup, a sanitary device - even that phrase makes me shudder, implying as it does that periods are unsanitary, so lets try that again - a gizmo for collecting menstrual blood. The Mooncup is a good product: it's much better for the body, and the environment, and the wallet, than tampons, encourages people to be less squeamish about an entirely normal biological process. Plus you can do cool things like monitor how much blood your body produces over a few hours or in the course of your cycle, which is a handy thing to know.
I've actually ordered one, so I'll let you know how it goes. I'd usually avoid buying any product whose advertising campaign annoys me so much, but tampon adverts also make me want to punch things and they haven't yet had the ovaries to put the word "vagina" on anything. Which is at least a start.
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