In Ladyelm's Patriarchal indoctrination , she briefly states the origin of the words vagina and cunt.
In the midwifery community, there are two distinct schools of thought regarding using the word vagina.
1. I don't know any other word to use but vagina. What are you talking about?
2. The word vagina is an evil, horrible, patriarchal word that needs to be eradicated even more than AIDS.
(There might be some middle ground, but it isn't relevant to this discussion. Ha!)
Coming around from the side of the discussion, Anne Frye writes phenomenally as a midwife. Her texts/tomes include incredible details and research. I call her the Minutiae Midwife. Of course, her suturing book has finally been absorbed in my head, so I am cheering her from over here holding my Carb n Serts. There is no midwife that I can think of that holds more information in her head than Anne Frye. She is an immense presence in the birthing community, belying her diminutive impish size outside of the pages.
However, as much as I respect and admire Ms. Frye, I have a huge concern about her choice to eliminate the word vagina from her otherwise scholarly texts.
Frye set out years ago to find a word that was more woman-friendly than vagina and settled on Yoni. Sure, yoni is attractive and pretty, but is it appropriate to use when speaking with those you might want to educate or even need just because you don't like the origin of a word? If we knew the origin of all words, might we end up with a mere three with which to discuss the riddles of the Universe?
In order to be more technically correct, she also uses clitorotomy instead of episiotomy. As many women already know, the clitoris has long legs that dangle far from the actual clitoral center. Frye's statement moves one to think about the seriousness of cutting apart (a part of)the clitoris when a woman births a baby.
Yet, when those that write textbooks for medical schools, professors in college A & P classes, consulting nurses, nurse-midwives and doctors, childbirth educators, 99.9% of midwifery texts, 100% of birth books found in bookstores and even homeschooling mamas use the term vagina and episiotomy, who is one small woman to believe changing two words will make a positive impact in our vocabulary? Or our reputation as midwives?
(Amusingly, I am sitting here smiling thinking about the POWER it takes to change minds and that it really does only take one person to initiate change. I acknowledge that at the same time I argue these points. Confused? Sometimes I am, too. Okay, often.)
I had an email discussion with Anne Frye regarding these words and how difficult it would be to be seen seriously if she insisted on continuing with their usage. The last thing midwives need is to be laughed at for calling a vagina yoni. How can we expect to be seen as peers if we can't even use the same language?
(Do we have to use the same language? We don't already, but we certainly don't walk into L&D and talk about surges or releasing of membranes when discussing our clients with medical personnel. When in Rome.... And for now, the hospital/doctor/nurse is Caesar.)
Frye acknowledged the difficulties in the differences in language choices, but feels strongly enough to keep the words in her texts.
I feel sad that she chooses to do so because I can so easily see her textbooks being used in medical schools as a window into midwifery and the out-of-hospital mindset and education process.
As long as yoni prevails, however, midwives will be misunderstood and laughed at. It's already hard enough trying to be seen as professional and educated. The last thing we need to do is to perpetuate the view of midwifery as crunchy granola tie-dye Birkenstock butt-length braided hair and flowing skirts who don't even know the meaning of proper obstetric terminology.
(And for those that don't know - I am a sort-of granola chick who wears tie-dye, Birkenstocks and flowing skirts - the bald head eliminates the braid, but I'd surely have one if I could!)
Watch your words. They carry much more weight than you might originally think.
For now, vagina and episiotomy are the words I will continue to use.
What words do you use?