Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Man in the Box

It's my fourth day in my new job and already I'm "out" as a feminist. I've kind of joked about it, and I haven't been as abrasive about my views as I might normally be around people I'm more comfortable with, but it's work, so I've learned to tone it down for the sake of getting along with my coworkers (I'd rather fight my battles when my job security is better).

Anyway, I brought up the fact that I was feminist, and that launched one of my dudely coworkers into a tirade about how feminism has chipped away at the spirits of men, so that they're only shells of their former, glorious selves. To illustrate his point, he drew a square on the board. He pointed out that men used to be able to do whatever they wanted, so they had all the room they wanted in this square. Then feminists came along (at this point he shaded 1/3 of the square) and told men they couldn't behave in certain ways. Then more feminists came along (and there goes another 1/3 of the square) and men were even more restricted in how they could act, until finally (everything but a small portion of the square is shaded at this point) men were only able to behave according to a small amount of behaviors.

I'm not sure exactly what his point was. Men are restricted as to how to behave? You mean they can't just go around treating their wives as slaves-with-benefits? Maybe he was referring to the "good ol' days," where dudes could be dudes, and girls could be virgins or sluts. I tried to point out that stereotypical dude behavior was mostly enforced by other dudes ("Dude, I'm not gay or anything!"), but my point was lost. I don't know why people can't understand that feminism does not seek to immasculate men, but rather to liberate them from patriarchy. It was interesting that my coworker chose to use a box to represent how guys have been allowed to act within society, because he probably didn't realize that the box represented patriarchal values.

And on to a separate, but important, issue: the whole vulva vs. vagina thing really bothers me. The vulva contains all of the external parts of the female reproductive system, and the vagina is simply the passage between the cervix and the hymen. But why do we refer to the vulva as the vagina? Perhaps because the patriarchy values the vagina most of all. Not only is it the passage from the womb (the battleground of the woman, where the patriarchy seeks to control entrance and exit), but it's also the passage to dude-hood, whereby a dude transitions from a boy to a man, simply through sticking himself inside. The clitoris? Pubic mound? Labia? These things are of no concern to a dude, they just get in the way of his groin spasm (unless he's one of those modern dudes who measures his manhood by how often he can make his woman fake it).

The urge to correct people when they say "vagina" and they mean "vulva" is really hard for me to control. It's only slightly less annoying than, say, when people say they "could" care less versus they "couldn't" (and I've gotten in the argument before with people convinced that they actually *could* care less about something).


Sara E Anderson said...

I think that the problem partially lies in the fact that when people talk about lady parts, they're probably talking about both the vulva and the vagina as a whole unit. So, they pick one.

chapstickaddict said...

Perhaps, but that would be like referring to your face as your nose. People honestly don't understand what the vulva is. I've read articles about vaginal reconstructive surgery (uck) that discuss clipping the labia or "repairing" the hymen, when both of those are actually part of the vulva.