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November 25, 2010 6:34 AM   Subscribe

"We don't use the word 'vagina'. Because, it's the Latin word for 'sheath'. Yes, as in a sword. (Somewhat NSFW) Virgie Tovar, the writer, blogger, sexuality educator and academic looks at UC Berkeley's Female Sexuality class and asks whether one class can change the way women see their bodies and their educational experience. More on DeCal at UC Berkeley.
posted by parmanparman (195 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Decimate" is the Latin word for "reduce by a tenth", but is that the way we use it today? I would hope words would be allowed to evolve over the centuries, and that we could give them meaning based on our current societal mores, rather than let nigh-ancient definitions lord over us.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:41 AM on November 25, 2010 [61 favorites]


Yes, they don't like hearing it and find it difficult to say whereas without batting an eye a man will refer to his dick or his rod or his Johnson.
posted by Scoo at 6:41 AM on November 25, 2010 [52 favorites]


He fixes the cable?
posted by kbanas at 6:45 AM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


If you say the word 'vagina' in an Australian accent, it sound really hilarious after awhile.
posted by jonmc at 6:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


Scipio squinted in the dry North African breeze before his centurions, and looked as Hannibal's front line emerged at the wavy horizon. This was his time. His legions were seasoned and ready. They would never forgive or forget the atrocities at Trasimene. They wanted blood. This ended today.

He knew timing was everything. The perfect moment to raise his weathered gladius and shout the order to charge. Every Roman eye was on him. He slowly lowered his palm down past its hilt, and fingered his vagina in anticipation...
posted by condour75 at 6:47 AM on November 25, 2010 [358 favorites]


As a person of left-handedness (I find the term "lefty" derogatory), I refuse to use the hate words "sinister" or "gauche." Reminds me of the indignity spilled up my people.
posted by chasing at 6:48 AM on November 25, 2010 [47 favorites]


condour75 : He slowly lowered his palm down past its hilt, and fingered his vagina in anticipation...

You win. Thread over. :D


literally LOL'd
posted by pla at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you say the word 'vagina' in an Australian accent, it sound really hilarious after awhile.

I prefer to do that same thing with the word "department." Hey, maybe we could call vaginas that.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:50 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


In seriousness, though, by putting that "vagina = sheath" line up front, she's *really* setting the wrong tone for the rest of the video, which (at least the few minutes that I watched) seems more-or-less positive.
posted by chasing at 6:51 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've never been comfortable speaking of my 'pencil' since I discovered it comes from a diminutive version of the Latin word penis.
posted by Segundus at 6:51 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it's not as bad as a sheath, but having a rooster and two pieces of sporting goods between your legs is still pretty awkward. Just sayin'.
posted by PlusDistance at 6:53 AM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't be fatuous, kbanas.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:54 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Vagina comes from the Latin word for sword. Okay. Why is that a reason to stop using the word?
posted by 23skidoo at 7:01 AM on November 25, 2010



I've never been comfortable speaking of my 'pencil' since I discovered it comes from a diminutive version of the Latin word penis.


Once I bought a larger pencil (dare I say, a maxi-pencil?) I felt better.
posted by Forktine at 7:05 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Right, going to watch the rest of the video now ...

... OK, that was extraordinarily positive. I especially liked the point made about acrimony. That's far from the biggest problem wrt women's issues, but it is nice to see it being addressed.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:05 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


She's not taking this far enough.

Since women were disenfranchised, second class persons in ancient Rome, we should stop using all Latinate words. Also, all Grecian words should be similarly disqualified.
posted by oddman at 7:08 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


But the chapter with that vocab word was the best part of Latin I. 28 years later, I can still remember our teacher saying "Yes, yes, that's very amusing. Moving on."
posted by bibliowench at 7:08 AM on November 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Wait, does this mean I'm going to have to change the words to "There Once Was a Girl From Regina"?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:08 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know why you're not supposed to split infinitives?

Because it can't be done in Latin - where infinitives are expressed with a single word - and some snobs wanted English to be as much like Latin as possible.

Yet another way in which Latin oppresses us!

Well, fuck that. I'm going to split every infinitive I notice.

And I'm going to call the vagina a "hot pocket".
posted by Joe Beese at 7:09 AM on November 25, 2010 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I came very close to stopping the video at the two-minute mark, because the vagina/sheath bit (and the general "look-how-radical-I-am, I'm-gonna-blow-your-patriarchal-mind-by-saying-CUNT" demeanor of the woman at the beginning) was really grating. Pretty much a textbook example of what turns otherwise sympathetic people off this brand of academic feminism. An unfortunate way to frame the documentary and the post.

I did stick with it to the end, though.
posted by ixohoxi at 7:09 AM on November 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


Man do I hate this kind of thing. Does not using the word really move the discussion forward?
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 7:11 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is that a reason to stop using the word?

Yeah, idk, the idea that women somehow can't be associated with swords is kind of ridiculous, especially considering how many societies/religions have a female goddess of war.
posted by elizardbits at 7:15 AM on November 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


But swords are for boys!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:20 AM on November 25, 2010


"I had a history of masturbating and feeling bad after."

It's trite to say round these parts, but, um, you're doing it wrong.
posted by modernnomad at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Good info, meh presentation, but I'm happy whenever anyone can kick out internalized sexism and gender issues, in whatever way works for them.

For me, I like to go to folks like The Femme Sharks for my radical feminism:

"FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES COME IN ALL KINDS OF SIZES AND EACH KIND IS LUSCIOUS"
posted by yeloson at 7:21 AM on November 25, 2010


I, too, am going to fucking split all my infinitives just in spite of this!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:23 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Vagina comes from the Latin word for sword. Okay. Why is that a reason to stop using the word?"

"Yeah, idk, the idea that women somehow can't be associated with swords is kind of ridiculous"


Guys, a sheath is not the sword. It's the thing into which you put the sword.

The sword is a penis.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:24 AM on November 25, 2010 [20 favorites]


Odd that her name is Virgie.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:24 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sword is a penis.

Maybe to you, you insensitive clod!
posted by Threeway Handshake at 7:26 AM on November 25, 2010


Wait, does this mean I'm going to have to change the words to "There Once Was a Girl From Regina"?


And I'm going to call the vagina a "hot pocket".


There once was a girl from Woonsocket....
posted by chillmost at 7:27 AM on November 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


She's clearly hysterical.
posted by TedW at 7:31 AM on November 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


The bit about using the word "cunt" instead of "vagina" took up 8 seconds at the start of a 15 minute video. Other people said very interesting things in the remaining 14 minutes and 52 seconds that had nothing to do with vocabulary. Perhaps we could move beyond the language so we don't spend this whole thread pulling the cord.

Interesting to me was how shocked one of the young women was that half the women in her class had been sexually assaulted. She was so sad about that. Me, I'm so sad that whatever group I'm in, anywhere in the world, travelling for work or for pleasure, I automatically assume a sizeable proportion of those women have been raped.

Is FemSex radical? OK sure if you want to think of it that way. Personally I think we need this generation of women waking up and agitating on the left to balance the fundamentalist resurgance we're seeing on the right with submissive women as a form of faith. Hell, I think we need it to balance the totally mainstream depictions of and attitudes about women's sexuality in totally mainstream media.

FWIW this class really isn't that radical. It can't be. I took a very similar curriculum 20 years ago at my Catholic university, from the Women's Studies department, where we were taught by an extremely awesome retired lesbian nun. None of this is new, and none of it has broken the world.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:32 AM on November 25, 2010 [33 favorites]


Interesting to me was how shocked one of the young women was that half the women in her class had been sexually assaulted.

Yeah, that made me o_O. I'm much more shocked to find out that women haven't, because just about everyone I know has. And I suspect I am in the majority here. Ugh.
posted by elizardbits at 7:37 AM on November 25, 2010


I thought the new term for "vagina" was "grizzly".
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 AM on November 25, 2010


Is FemSex radical?

That's the thing - as I watched this video, I kept nodding, saying, "Yeah ... yeah, definitely, good ... yes, good they're teaching that ..." and never encountered some psychotic Solanasesque screed from anyone. Positive, informative, and it definitely sounds like a fun class, but "radical"? Maybe in certain contexts, yes. To me it just sounded like a decent education.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2010


The vagina:sheath::penis:sword thing is pretty old news to me. I was mostly distracted by the extreme close-ups of her face at the beginning, since normal-sized expressions look like crazy mugging at that range.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The sword is a penis.

The hammer is my penis.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


Changing what something is called annoys most people, educates few, changes nothing. But it makes those language police doing it feel oh so smug and politically correct. I am familiar with this tactic from another subject having nothing to do with sex, but the effect is the same. It does not facilitate understanding or dialogue, but stops it dead. See what happened here, the rest of the content about sexual abuse of women got lost in a semantic dueling match.

Vagina is the medically correct and neutral word. Like penis. That these words were derived from Latin roots that few know has little impact on sexuality studies today, or on making the world safer for women and girls. The many other euphemisms are either cutesy or curses. Ultimately the words do not matter as much as the context and intent of the writer.

Anyhow, we all know the right term is "down there":-)
posted by mermayd at 7:52 AM on November 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


Is FemSex radical?

That's the thing - as I watched this video, I kept nodding, saying, "Yeah ... yeah, definitely, good ... yes, good they're teaching that ..." and never encountered some psychotic Solanasesque screed from anyone. Positive, informative, and it definitely sounds like a fun class, but "radical"? Maybe in certain contexts, yes. To me it just sounded like a decent education.


I think that's accurate. One of the problems with all kinds of 'radical' politics when it comes to their effectiveness is poor choice of presentation and its effects on the target audience. By presenting something as 'radical' which is clearly rather mainstream for huge numbers of people, both men and women, there are unfortunate consequences -- those who already are on board with the ideas you are proposing are likely to just roll their eyes and mentally pat you on the head as though you're a child reaching some milestone that every child does, and those who are not already on board (lets say in this case, a conservative minority) are likely be turned off by your simple characterization of your ideas as 'radical'.

There's much value, content-wise in this video, and I think it's pretty much all mainstream stuff for an awful lot of people. To expand beyond 'preaching to the choir', they really need to think of better ways to get these ideas adopted beyond those who already support them.
posted by modernnomad at 7:53 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was mostly distracted by the extreme close-ups of her face at the beginning, since normal-sized expressions look like crazy mugging at that range.

I agree. It sounds like a great class, and I'm happy for the people taking it and teaching it. I have such a grim view of school that it thrills me whenever I hear about a class that's actually good.

But MAN that video was working hard to turn me off: the absurd vagina/sheath thing (which really IS a serious problem in a educational setting -- it's like a math class teaching that 1+1=5) turned me off, and those extreme closeups REALLY turned me off. After a while, I had to switch to another browser tab and just listen to the documentary.

Why would anyone film something like that? I don't get it.
posted by grumblebee at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2010


Those were the scariest scare-quotes I have ever seen (@1:20). Like spiders coming at the camera.
posted by ServSci at 7:55 AM on November 25, 2010


I was weirded out by her close-ups as well. It's interesting that she appears larger-than-life in the video, whereas every other subject is framed to appear very small. Even if it wasn't a conscious decision, it speaks volumes about the ego of the filmmaker.

Still, the content is good for the most part. I'd love to take this class.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 7:56 AM on November 25, 2010


Yeah, that close-up is entirely disorienting. Do not like.
posted by kbanas at 7:58 AM on November 25, 2010


is it ok that we talk about the camera angle? or is it like the emergency stop? can someone tell me what's OK to talk about in this thread?
posted by kbanas at 7:59 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Which reminds me of a story from a parent about their toddler female barging in on a dinner party shouting "Look, Daddy! I have a pocket! It can hold a pencil!"
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought the new term for "vagina" was "grizzly".

I'm going with "Sarlacc the Sand Pit," per the advice of Sarah Haskins.
posted by bibliowench at 8:01 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess it's not as bad as a sheath, but having a rooster and two pieces of sporting goods between your legs is still pretty awkward. Just sayin'.

Back to the latinate: isn't penis the Latin word for tail?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:03 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Look, Daddy! I have a pocket! It can hold a pencil!"

what
posted by elizardbits at 8:05 AM on November 25, 2010


Ack! The word 'cunt' doesn't freak me out, but the up-nose close-up shots and the waggle-fingered air/scare quotes around her 'vagina' are the dentata in vagina dentata.
posted by pracowity at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


kbanas: is it ok that we talk about the camera angle? or is it like the emergency stop? can someone tell me what's OK to talk about in this thread?

For what it's worth I found the camera stuff really freaky and distracting too - I am glad this video is not the product of a film class, or I would fear for the future of cinema. But I was interested in hearing what these women had to say about their experiences, so I let the video run in a different tab while looking up stuffing recipes.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:08 AM on November 25, 2010


Moving past the negative aspects of the video, I do think it's shameful how little most people know about female sexuality, especially given the fact that most people will, at some point in their lives, be a person with female sexuality or have sex with a person with female sexuality.

Mary Roach's book, "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex" astounded me. (It's a really fun read.)

Here, in 2010, researchers STILL argue about whether or not it's possible for a woman to have a vaginal (as opposed to clitoral) orgasm. And it's not (necessary) because the subject of woman and sex is unfathomable. It's because, historically (right up to the present), so few people have rigorously studied it.
posted by grumblebee at 8:09 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be happy to talk about other aspects of the video (or, more likely, to keep quiet and read comments from those who have more interesting insights than I).

However, I found myself with little else to say. The video is basically two minutes of "I'm about to show you a revolutionary thing that's going to blow your mind", followed by thirteen minutes of really obvious stuff that pretty much everyone (except for fringe lunatics) already knows and agrees with.

I guess I just don't understand what's supposed to be so revelatory or remarkable here. If anyone wants to share what they're seeing in the video that I'm not, I'm going to shut up and listen now.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:17 AM on November 25, 2010


Bear Cave
Magic Mouth
Dragons Lair
London Underground
Magma Chamber
Baby Maker
Love Hole
The Vise
Scream Machine
Pressure Cooker
Tootsie pop
Mind Blender
Jewelry Box
posted by humanfont at 8:18 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


London Underground

Mind the gap.
posted by modernnomad at 8:22 AM on November 25, 2010 [12 favorites]


See, that vagina/sheath nonsense is the kind of empty-headed silliness that gives feminism a bad name. And I really do not appreciate people who give feminism a bad name. I really do not appreciate them at all. Feminism gets quite enough undeserved stick (oh, whoops, excuse my patriarchal phallocentric use of language) without setting itself for the thoroughly deserved variety.
posted by Decani at 8:24 AM on November 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Nurses, who have no shame, use the slang term "vag" to denote a vaginal childbirth delivery.

"That baby was 10 pounds."
"Was it a C-section?"
"No, she vag'd it."
"No way!"
"Yeah. Anyway, I'm late. Gotta go roll the gork in the other room."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:34 AM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


There once was a girl from Woonsocket....

You have the stress wrong, I'm afraid. Besides, as far as I can tell, the correct way to pronounce "Woonsocket" is "The Sock," and, honestly, let's not go there, because, no matter how much you brag, it's never going to be a foot, 'k?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:36 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Go Bears!
posted by matthewstopheles at 8:39 AM on November 25, 2010


I'll take "Swords" for $200, Alex.
posted by Ratio at 8:47 AM on November 25, 2010


The hammer is my penis.

Underthings, tumbling.
posted by erniepan at 8:51 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"To manage men, one ought to have a sharp mind in a velvet sheath."
– George Eliot
posted by Kabanos at 8:52 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The hurt locker."
posted by Zozo at 9:00 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm going with "Sarlacc the Sand Pit," per the advice of Sarah Haskins .

But sand is coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like vaginas. They're soft and smooth.
posted by mazola at 9:01 AM on November 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


So... errr... what are we Germans supposed to use, then? The neutral, non-clinical term is "Scheide", which means both vagina and sword sheath (insert joke about extreme pornography here).
posted by PontifexPrimus at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought the video was great. The vagina/sheath thing is a distraction. I'm inspired and empowered by seeing other people being inspired and empowered. I don't have to agree with everything they say, and it's ok if some of the facts are wrong or the attitudes unattractive. I'm interested in seeing how other people make up their own minds, and deal with other people from a place of self-respect, because that helps me do the same thing for myself. Great post.
posted by facetious at 9:06 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Trolling predates the internet, and can be found in academic papers, newspapers, and political manifestos dating back hundreds...er...oh, whenever we started smearing pigment on cave walls.
posted by Xoebe at 9:16 AM on November 25, 2010


I'm going to post it again since no one acknowledge the first time it was posted.

SHEATH IS NOT A SWORD.

SHEATH IS WHERE THE SWORD GOES.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sheath

A class at Berkley teaches that "sheath" means "sword"?? And none of these girls bothered to look it up?

But the class seems like a decent thing. Sucks that there are so many people in the world that grew up without someone to talk to about these things.
posted by LoudMusic at 9:25 AM on November 25, 2010


Why doesn't anyone use the word scabbard any more? What's with all this sheath shit?
posted by ob at 9:29 AM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


So this is a class that they have to register and pay for? Given the cost of Berkeley ($22,879 tution and fees per year for non-residents), yeah, I don't think so. it seems more suited to a student organization/club, albeit with lots of meetings and guest speakers.
posted by HopperFan at 9:34 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we still use the word "vanilla"?
The name came from the Spanish word "vainilla", diminutive form of "vaina" (meaning "sheath"), which is in turn derived from Latin "vagina".
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:37 AM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm uninterested in the typical, mostly male, chuckling and chortling going on in this thread (not dissimilar to the usual, mostly male, chuckling and chortling that goes on in many threads about female sexuality, actually). It has the effect of overwhelming any other discussion and is really unnecessary. One or two chortles, whatever, fine. Then every man who's vaguely offended, irritated, or annoyed has to jump in with the hundredth variation on the same joke that other men up above have already made -- and it's just a stupid pile-on.

The vagina/cunt distinction (as in why one term is now to be preferred to the other) is confusing to me, but the cognitive dissonance is my problem -- not theirs.

I agree with facetious about the video itself. The video, the lively appreciation for learning displayed in the video, and the nice stock footage of Berkeley at the beginning and end remind me of everything that I loved most about the place (including the feisty, determined attitude of many of the educators and the students there, in the face of a lot of completely ignorant stereotypes about "those Berkeley radicals," and "what crap are Berkeley students paying for again?," untold budget calamities, and other unhappy events of late).

Go Cal.
posted by blucevalo at 9:41 AM on November 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've no doubt that femsex is a useful and interesting subject, but I'm always left worrying that these courses are non-academic hugfests that are great for self-awareness, but bad for furthering human knowledge.

I've no problem with going to these things in your spare time, but I can't get over the fact that this should maybe not be part of a university level education.

I'm reminded too of the "feminism" modules they latch onto the English Language and Literature degrees near to me. I can see the point of some of it, but a lot of it seems to be pretty intellectually vague.

The whole "It's not History, it's Herstory" stuff feels a bit too new-agey for me. I want my university courses to be full of facts and peer reviewed research and real stuff.
posted by seanyboy at 9:44 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see now - it's part of DeCal, "...a student-run democratic education program at the UC Berkeley - here, students create and facilitate their own classes on a variety of (often unorthodox) subjects."

They have some interesting stuff, including some I could probably teach (Reading Comics) to others I'd like to take (Jewish Medical Ethics, 1947 Partition Archive).
posted by HopperFan at 9:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


LoudMusic: SHEATH IS WHERE THE SWORD GOES.

Yes, thank you. That's the objection.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Greg. Apparently from now on whenever I see a topic about gender issues and vocabulary, I think of you.
posted by plinth at 9:47 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I maybe shouldn't have put quotes round the word feminism there. Apologies. I'm can only blame that on the patriachy and my own sexist intellectual laziness.
posted by seanyboy at 9:48 AM on November 25, 2010


I missed that DeCal thing too HopperFan. If that's the case, then I'm fine with it.
Feel free to ignore everything I said.
posted by seanyboy at 9:51 AM on November 25, 2010


See, that vagina/sheath nonsense is the kind of empty-headed silliness that gives feminism a bad name. And I really do not appreciate people who give feminism a bad name. I really do not appreciate them at all. Feminism gets quite enough undeserved stick (oh, whoops, excuse my patriarchal phallocentric use of language) without setting itself for the thoroughly deserved variety.

This.
posted by kafziel at 9:54 AM on November 25, 2010


The sword is a penis.

I think that giant stone heads have positively established that the penis is evil because it shoots seeds, and makes new life.
posted by atrazine at 9:59 AM on November 25, 2010 [16 favorites]


blucevalo : but the cognitive dissonance is my problem -- not theirs.

See, there we disagree (and usually do). The "problem" falls squarely on the shoulders of those who would tell us to change. Simple as that.

Perhaps they have it right, perhaps not; But what you take as the Boys' Club poking fun at those silly UCB kids epitomizes the underlying issue - Change takes energy. Do you want to expend your efforts reducing the number of rapes per year, or do you want to argue about the etymology of the names of parts of our anatomy?

We laugh (or cringe) not so much at (some of) the goals, but at the specifics. Should we treat both genders equally? Should we respect both* genders' right to control their own bodies? Should we pay both genders the same for comparable work, and make sure both genders have an equal opportunity to hold any given job given that they meet any physical prereqs?

Absolutely.

Should we laugh at UCB kids who don't happen to like our bloody and often misogynistic history and think they can just erase it with doublespeak?

Absolutely.


* I use bolding here because in each of these cases, the discrimination goes both ways... Male nurses, communal gym showers for men while the ladies get stalls, the assumption that any incident of domestic violence has the male as the aggressor, etc
posted by pla at 10:04 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


So... errr... what are we Germans supposed to use, then? The neutral, non-clinical term is "Scheide", which means both vagina and sword sheath (insert joke about extreme pornography here).

Nothing quite like the feeling of Scheidefreude.
posted by Kabanos at 10:07 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


"communal gym showers for men while the ladies get stalls"

That's such a terrible thing. The agony and suffering that men have to endure is unspeakable. Stalls for everyone! Fight The Man, er, The Power, crap...
posted by HopperFan at 10:13 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are there any men in the femsex class? Not trying to make some sort of contrarian point, just genuinely curious.
posted by tehloki at 10:17 AM on November 25, 2010


tehloki, the site says:

"Are male-identified people allowed to take this course?

Yes. However, please keep in mind that the course is first and foremost a women's space. While we do accept a number of male-identified people into our course each semester, spots are reserved primarily for those who are female-identified."


I wonder how they determine how many men they'll accept.
posted by HopperFan at 10:20 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bear Cave
Magic Mouth
Dragons Lair
London Underground
Magma Chamber
Baby Maker
Love Hole
The Vise
Scream Machine
Pressure Cooker
Tootsie pop
Mind Blender
Jewelry Box


I was almost expecting to see "Wizard's Sleeve" there.
posted by MikeMc at 10:24 AM on November 25, 2010


The political strategy of calling out linguistic vestiges of sexism, racism, elitism, and other prejudices has a distinguished history among philosophers and academics. Nietzsche’s _On the Genealogy of Morals_ is one well-known example.

This strategy is especially useful in places like the United States where equality appears prevalent but where, in fact, sexism (inequality) pervades the entire social and political infrastructure. Hence, show how at the very core of what is "neutral" language (e.g. "vagina") there exists an historical martial metaphor for enclosing a sword (metonymically a "penis").

The strategy is so effective that reasonable, right-minded liberals will begin saying things like "all this feminist linguistic analysis which is divorced from colloquial usage is really off-putting but, yeah, there's a good message here."
posted by mistersquid at 10:24 AM on November 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, it's a good thing no one said "pudendum."
posted by mistersquid at 10:26 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I totally get (and share) the objection to naming female genitalia using words with violent or military connotations. But etymology doesn't automatically bestow connotation, and there's no case to be made that anyone except Latin majors hears "vagina" and thinks "sheath." There's a lot of patriarchal crap in our day-to-day language, but this ain't it.

I do object to communal gym showers, however, because I'm shy.
posted by Zozo at 10:26 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've no doubt that femsex is a useful and interesting subject, but I'm always left worrying that these courses are non-academic hugfests that are great for self-awareness, but bad for furthering human knowledge.

I've no problem with going to these things in your spare time, but I can't get over the fact that this should maybe not be part of a university level education.

As a professor heavily engaged in the revision of a General Education program, I think there is room in a University education for this sort of course. I wouldn't like to see a major or minor that consisted of nothing else, but, given that this is a student-taught pass/fail course, I expect that this course is probably some kind of elective. (I am a little confused on how the UC Berkeley "unit" matches a "credit" at the Universities I've worked at and attended). As a starting point for getting students thinking about things like gender, sex, sexuality, social relations, etc., this is probably better than a standard "professor lectures to a class" model, because it gives the students more of a sense of agency and a chance to grapple with some potentially difficult personal issues outside of the scrutiny of authority, which adds its own layers of distortion onto the topic.

The whole "It's not History, it's Herstory" stuff feels a bit too new-agey for me. I want my university courses to be full of facts and peer reviewed research and real stuff.

Eh, sure, like any slogan it's kind of pat, but, assuming you can avoid getting bogged down in that simple word play, it's not a bad place to start. Just because it doesn't work for you doesn't mean it's not useful to anyone, and I am not sure a beginning class on sexuality is best delivered with a lot of "facts and peer reviewed research." The "real stuff" may be elsewhere at this level.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:29 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that's an excellent point, mistersquid. It's all too easy to believe in the myth of "we used to be a sexist/racist/religionist country but now we're totally egalitarian", especially if you happen to live in the privilege that this inequality has created for some. Casual reminders can be a helpful way of opening peoples' eyes. I'm not really too worried about who might roll their eyes at the language I use. Of course, I don't jump in people's shit 24/7, and still think talking with people is far more effective than talking at them. But these "neutral" examples, however small that might seem, can educate.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:29 AM on November 25, 2010


There's a lot of patriarchal crap in our day-to-day language, but this ain't it.

I'd like to modify that, if I could: there's a lot of toxic patriarchal crap in our language that subtly (and not-so-subtly) enforces and perpetuates misogyny. But I don't believe this particular case of Latin cruft causes any significant harm.
posted by Zozo at 10:30 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've never been comfortable speaking of my 'pencil' since I discovered it comes from a diminutive version of the Latin word penis.

And all I've got is a pen, barely half as long as your pencil. This really bugged me for a while as a young teen, but then my dad let me in on a secret of his. "Just call it a fuckmissile." Suddenly, writing longhand became so much easier, validating, empowering. Nobody's dared mess with me since.
posted by philip-random at 10:37 AM on November 25, 2010


I suggest we start using my term for it: Happy Place. Nothing patriarchal there.
posted by MikeMc at 10:37 AM on November 25, 2010


Hence, show how at the very core of what is "neutral" language (e.g. "vagina") there exists an historical martial metaphor for enclosing a sword (metonymically a "penis").

I don't understand what "there exists" means in that sentence. I wish you'd made it a more active sentence. Exists for whom and in what sense?

As far as I can tell, here's what's true:

1. At one point in history, in a language not used by many people here, "vagina" mean "sheath."

2. To most people today, "vagina" means a part of the human body. Most people are unaware that to certain people living in a certain historical period, the word once meant something different.

3. People who watched the video (and a tiny minority of other people, e.g. some scholars) are aware of the historical roots of the word.

What I don't get is how what-a-word-once-meant has any sort of relationship, causal or otherwise, with what it means to most people now -- especially to people who aren't aware of the history. Even to people who who DO know the history.

I can only think of two possible relationships:

1. Once someone has learned the history, he may be incapable of thinking of the word "vagina" without thinking of the word "sheath." That may or may not be true for any specific person, but even it if is true, is it a problem?

Now that I've seen the video, "sheath" will probably pop into my head when I hear "vagina" -- at least for a while (then I'll probably forget about it), but that doesn't mean I'll be thinking "vaginas are sheaths" or "vaginas are like sheaths" or "vaginas are FOR housing penises."

All we know is that the two words will pop into my head at once (or one after the other) and that I'll be aware of the history. So what?

2. There's a mystical bond between words if they are historically linked, e.g. the name "Marcus" is mystically bonded to the word (and the concept?) of "war" because "Marcus" comes from "Mars," the god of war... It's find for you to have mystical beliefs, but I don't know why you'd assume we all have them. So I'm discounting this possibility.
posted by grumblebee at 10:44 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


More tricky vocab!

Labia means "lips."

Cervix means "neck."

Clitoris means "shut up."

Fallopian tubes are named after a man!

Cunt means "vulva," i.e. the external structures of the female genitalia, i.e. not the vagina.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:44 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


My penis is not a sword for killing, but a plowshare for, um, plowing.
posted by bashos_frog at 10:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Just sat through the whole video (which, as a film, is somewhat meh) and I'd like to nth that the framing of this post is very unfortunate.
posted by victors at 10:51 AM on November 25, 2010


"I just down from the Isle of Skye
I'm no very big but I'm awful shy
All the lassies shout as I walk by,
"Donald, Where's Your Trousers?"

verse/chorus:
Am
G
Am
G
Am-G-Am-G-Am-Am
posted by clavdivs at 10:53 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The vagina/sheath thing is a distraction.

Yeah it was basically a huge posting gaffe to lead with that quote. Did you want people to watch and enjoy the video, or make fun of it, or just debate the "sheath" thing? I can't tell if you editorialzed way too much or not nearly enough.
posted by hermitosis at 10:59 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Clitoris means "shut up."

Bullshit it does. I've got a dictionary right here.
1605–15; < Gk kleitorís, akin to kleíein to shut
...huh.
posted by Zozo at 11:01 AM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


grumblebee: All we know is that the two words will pop into my head at once (or one after the other) and that I'll be aware of the history. So what?

Well it's worth realising that this is one example of examining our contemporary use of language in this class. I'm fairly certain that it would have been part of a wider examination of
language, which is a good thing. I imagine this particular reclamation (cunt for vagina) found an enthusiastic audience for all kinds of reasons, amply demonstrated in the audience chant of "Cunt! Cunt! Cunt!" from many performances of the Vagina Monologues.

But generally I approve of people having the educational background (either academic or experiential) to filter and critically analyse even mundane language. I don't run around the internet advocating that we re-title the term "failure to progress" for labouring women, for example, but I'm aware that it isn't just a term, I know where it comes from, I know how it came into the language, and I can think about why it's problematic in terms of gender and power.

I am happy I had an education that made me aware of those things and enabled me to question them when I hear them.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The whole "It's not History, it's Herstory" stuff feels a bit too new-agey for me.

i kinda think things like equality for women and rights for gays started out as 'new-agey' ideas that got explored in all kinds of ways we would find silly today, but they trended toward revelations that we wouldn't question so much now. academic exploration isn't only about adopting the accepted facts; it's about taking different routes that often are dead ends, and learning from them.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 11:02 AM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well I can empathize with her experience regarding vagina !=! sheath. For me it was a blog post about the fact that the vagina is not just a hole, it is an organ. It is not simply a repository to put things in, but an important organ that does work for my body. I can honestly say that I felt a lot less disconnected from my body, my vagina, and my sexuality when I learned that it isn't a hole. It's hard to own a hole when the hole is framed largely as something others use (to put something in or to come out of). This was really important for me. I feel so much more comfortable with my vagina now as a part of my body that I own completely and that works for me every day and not just when someone wants or needs to use it. My vagina is not a tool made for anyone else's using, so no it's not a sheath (although the concept of vagina as sheath bothers me more than the words themselves, so I will continue to say vagina).

This also inspires me to do more to take care of it and learn how it works, because work it does. I can now understand that the vagina is connected to a multitude of other organs and is an essential part of my body. It is as important as my heart, my lungs, my liver...my brain.

Something else in the video that struck me was when the disabled woman talked about how desexualized disabled people are within society. That observation hit me rather personally. If women's sexuality is largely framed in terms of how much of an object of desire she is for men, and disabled women are not seen as objects of desire, then disabled women can not be, or should not be, or are not sexual. For the woman in the video, it helped her to reconcile her own lower sex drive and embrace it as as something understandable in light of socialization. For me, I have to decide if this lowered sexuality is what I want and how much I can do about it. But I agree with her that it isn't something I have to change if I don't want to. I don't have to become more sexual if I don't want. I have to think about this some more and just live with it a little while.
posted by Danila at 11:11 AM on November 25, 2010 [21 favorites]


Nunu
posted by vibrotronica at 11:14 AM on November 25, 2010


Well it's worth realizing that this is one example of examining our contemporary use of language in this class. I'm fairly certain that it would have been part of a wider examination of
language, which is a good thing. ... But generally I approve of people having the educational background (either academic or experiential) to filter and critically analyze even mundane language.


Sure, it's generally better to have more knowledge. But in the video -- and I'm sure we've all heard lots of other examples of this -- people act like there's a causal AND STILL EXISTING relationship between the ancient usage of the word and modern usage.

I'm sorry about the derail, and I empathize with folks who would rather discuss what -- agreed -- is more important: female sexuality. But, to me, it's really shameful when such faulty logic about language comes out of an educational institution.

It's fine if the teacher was saying, "Here are some random facts about the word 'vagina.' It begins with a 'v'; it has three syllables; it rhymes with 'Carolina' and it once meant 'sheath,'" but it's not fine -- not in a SCHOOL -- to imply that it still means 'sheath' to most people or that the fact that it once meant that impacts most people (even people who didn't know it once meant that).
posted by grumblebee at 11:20 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm not usually a fan of bringing up the historical meaning of a word in light of its current usage, but I feel like almost everyone in this thread is missing the symbolic reasons behind rejecting the word vagina in favor of a different term.

There are different ways to talk about female sexuality. One of those ways is to talk about female sexuality in terms of how it is completed by men. The predominant way that women are taught about their sexuality by their parents/friends/culture in America, is in terms of how to attract a man, how to please a man, how to accommodate a man, how to keep a man, how to get over a man, how to fantasize about a man, how to find a man, etc (if you grew up female in America with a different predominant message about your sexuality, wow, please tell me more).

A sheath has no use without its sword. To women who have felt their sexual identity and education has been always framed in the context of "my-use-to-a-man", it is symbolically resonant to reject a term in female anatomy whose origin is grounded in thinking that says female sexuality does not exist without first, a man.

It IS radical for many women to try and think about their pleasure and their bodies and their sexuality in terms of not being a complement to a man, but being a sexual and complete individual on their own, and capable of seeking pleasure from themselves, men, women, whatever. It IS radical for men to recognize this too. This might seem like, "duh" to a lot of guys, but I've gotta say, you've probably always felt like the world just assumed you are a complete sexual individual on your own. The world doesn't send the same message to us ladies.

If you do not think this is radical, I think you've been fortunate to be surrounded by forward thinking, well-educated, and non-gender-normative people for a while. That must be awesome. Let's just say most of the rest of the country does not take these ideas for granted.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:23 AM on November 25, 2010 [27 favorites]


Well I can empathize with her experience regarding vagina !=! sheath. For me it was a blog post about the fact that the vagina is not just a hole, it is an organ. It is not simply a repository to put things in, but an important organ that does work for my body. I can honestly say that I felt a lot less disconnected from my body, my vagina, and my sexuality when I learned that it isn't a hole.

I wish THAT had been how the video started. That makes total sense to me and I think it's a really important point. Lot's of people today DO think of a vagina as a penis receptacle, and that's a problem.

And it's even reasonable to say "many people today think of a vagina as a penis sheath."

But that's NOT the same as "'vagina' is a problematic word because thousands of years ago it meant 'sheath'."
posted by grumblebee at 11:25 AM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Danila : I can now understand that the vagina is connected to a multitude of other organs and is an essential part of my body. It is as important as my heart, my lungs, my liver...my brain.

Wha??? Kudos for liking your gear, everyone should feel comfortable with what they have.

But...

Overstating it doesn't do much for the discussion, it just goes back to my earlier comment about silly UCB students - You can live without a vagina; you can't live without any of the other parts you mention.

Though in the interest of fairness, you can also live without a penis. Or an appendix.
posted by pla at 11:29 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


And it's even reasonable to say "many people today think of a vagina as a penis sheath."

But that's NOT the same as "'vagina' is a problematic word because thousands of years ago it meant 'sheath'."


I don't really see the difference. I think the choice of words to describe an object, even a choice made a few thousand years ago, can have a significant influence on our perception of the object. Words shape perceptions. Perceptions are passed down from generation to generation. It can help to understand where those perceptions might have come from, and for some of these women, rejecting the word helps them to reject the perception.

Honestly, I think this is more of an issue of it not being an issue for men or a problem they are aware of (that a woman's vagina is not her own, but a tool for someone else's using).
posted by Danila at 11:30 AM on November 25, 2010


Danila : I don't really see the difference.

The difference comes from the fact that someone had to tell you an obscure bit of trivia for you to consider the word a problem.
posted by pla at 11:36 AM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


grumblebee: But in the video -- and I'm sure we've all heard lots of other examples of this -- people act like there's a causal AND STILL EXISTING relationship between the ancient usage of the word and modern usage.

Oh. No. I don't think that's the intent and I didn't see anyone drawing a causal relationship there. Nobody is saying that women are subject to misogyny today because we use the word vagina, if that's what you think is being said.

But it's OK to say "I don't want to use a word that because of its roots reminds me that many people see the function of this part of my body is a place for a man to put his penis - a space for someone else, rather than for me."

I have no idea what the root of the word history is. I don't much care. Because while I don't use the term herstory, I totally understand the impetus behind it. I like people to be reminded that women are largely ignored or erased in academic history texts and the stories we tell, and that women have history worth going back and re-discovering. I had never really noticed or thought about or questioned that until I heard the term herstory and thought "What?"
posted by DarlingBri at 11:42 AM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


You can live without a vagina; you can't live without any of the other parts you mention.

Well first of all, the importance or value of something is not always measured by whether or not it is a matter of life or death.

Secondly, it is not simply a matter of "what if I literally lost my brain". I have a mental illness and am acutely aware of how important a properly functioning brain is, and how important my own perception of my brain is, along with the perceptions of others. The same is true of my vagina, but I did not really know that as long as I didn't think of it as an organ.

I'll give an example of why it's important to know that a vagina is a functioning organ (framed by its importance to me) and not a waiting receptacle (framed by its importance to someone else). The vagina cleans itself and is actively harmed by many of the things we are told to do in order to make it acceptable. I used to use feminine hygiene products that were aimed at making me "fresh" and "clean". However, now I understand that I have to be really careful about what I put in my vagina because I don't want to interfere with its normal healthy function. This is something we often understand with regard to other organs, like being careful about what we introduce into our lungs, or eating healthy foods. But with the vagina, we often think that AS IS it is not acceptable and we need to introduce things to it in order to make it "function" as it should.
posted by Danila at 11:42 AM on November 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


The difference comes from the fact that someone had to tell you an obscure bit of trivia for you to consider the word a problem.

Again, the word vagina doesn't bother me personally but I don't think there's anything "wrong" with the people it does bother. I think they already knew that the common perception of the vagina was a problem, and knowing the origin of the word helps to explain why.
posted by Danila at 11:44 AM on November 25, 2010


Okay, I'm not usually a fan of bringing up the historical meaning of a word in light of its current usage, but I feel like almost everyone in this thread is missing the symbolic reasons behind rejecting the word vagina in favor of a different term.

Sorry to keep posting at this, but I wanted to say that I understand where you're coming from. You're wrong, though -- at least in my case. But I can see why you'd think someone who is harping on the language thing is missing the point.

I get the point, and I got it immediately. I won't explain the point, because you did it perfectly. I didn't have an "OH, I get it!" moment when I read your post, because I got it right away when I saw the video.

AND I think it's a valid point. AND I think it's an important point.

None of that changes the fact that -- in my view -- the point was made in a terrible way. Not terrible in casual conversation, but terrible in the context of a class at a university. AND terrible in an all-to-common way in Humanities classes.

I suspect the goal of the history thing was -- as you say -- more to do something symbolic than to say something logically valid. But to me that's unacceptable in a school. It's acceptable in a rhetoric-infested field, like advertising or politics (well, not acceptable but inevitable) but not in school. (Well, it's inevitable there, too. It's inevitable whenever people communicate, but when false facts get spread in a school, I believe it's out duty to speak out about them.)

Not everyone agrees with this, but, in my view, rhetoric that papers over logically unsound argumentation is ABSOLUTELY WRONG 100% OF THE TIME IN A SCHOOL. NO EXCEPTIONS, EVER. It really doesn't matter whether it's for the cause of something good. A school should always be first and foremost about what's true.

For instance, I absolutely want there to be more female mathematicians, but we're not allowed to get there by pretending, in a school, that many of the worlds' greatest mathematicians have historically been women. That's simply not true.

If you think rhetoric sometimes trumps logic -- in a school -- when it's for a good purpose... Or if you think that, when discussing an educational matter, harping on a logical gaff is nitpicking or derailing, then, sorry (genuinely) we disagree in a profound way, a way that, for me, comes down to core values. I'm sorry, but I AM going to speak up in these cases. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't.

It is possible to make symbolic gestures without bullshitting at the same time. It takes more work, but it's possible.

Having said that, I wish more people -- people like me -- to whom mystical statements like this are like fingernails on a blackboard, would take the time to acknowledge the rest of the message. I tried to do that, above, but maybe I didn't do that emphatically enough.

When something is really important to people -- something like female sexuality -- it causes problems when people like me keep harping on a tangent. I get that and I'm sorry. But people on the "other side" should realize that the "tangent" is important to some of us.

Here's what we need less of:

"That's bullshit about the word 'vagina'!"

"Stop derailing this discussion with tangents about etymology!"

Here's what we need more of:

"That stuff about the origin of the word 'vagina' is bullshit because blah blah blah, but I agree that our understanding and attention to issues surrounding female sexuality is lacking, because..."

"I'm so glad this course is being taught because blah blah blah, though I hear what people are saying about the etymology stuff..."
posted by grumblebee at 11:46 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


And I'll add that linking the word to the perception may help give an individual woman a sense of agency, so she can say "I won't use that word!" and that act itself is empowering, as I think whimsicalnymph explained.
posted by Danila at 11:46 AM on November 25, 2010


The cunt-instead-of-vagina thing was mentioned in the groundbreaking feminist book, "Cunt", in which Inga Muscio, a feminist, starts off the book by saying vagina is Latin for sheath for a sword. Muscio says, "Ain't got no vagina."

That book is so empowering and wonderful. Margaret Cho echoes my sentiments when she proclaimed that everyone who came out of one should read it.
posted by JLovebomb at 11:52 AM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The difference comes from the fact that someone had to tell you an obscure bit of trivia for you to consider the word a problem.

Again, the word vagina doesn't bother me personally but I don't think there's anything "wrong" with the people it does bother. I think they already knew that the common perception of the vagina was a problem, and knowing the origin of the word helps to explain why.

Here's the locus of the problem for me: it's one thing for someone to say, "When I think of the word 'vagina,' I can't help thinking of the historical roots -- the word 'sheath' -- and thinking of a vagina in that way is offensive to me."

I don't see anything wrong with that statement.

Here's what I have a problem with: "We don't use the word 'vagina' because it comes from a Latin word meaning 'sheath'."

That's a little ambiguous, but to me it implies something more profound than a personal association. Compare it to this:

"We don't eat cupcakes because they're loaded with calories."

That's a statement of universal fact. The 'vagina' comment, in the video, was in that form, so it sounded -- to me and some other people -- like they were making a factual, universal claim about how words work, rather than a comment about personal, idiosyncratic associations.

It's just a comment in a video, but having been involved with Humanities classes for most of my life (20 years in academia and child of two profs), it's the sort of thing I've heard WAY too often. It's bullshit in an educational setting.
posted by grumblebee at 11:56 AM on November 25, 2010


OK: "When I think of the word 'vagina,' I can't help thinking of the historical roots -- the word 'sheath' -- and thinking of a vagina in that way is offensive to me."

vs

Not OK: "We don't use the word 'vagina'. Because, it's the Latin word for 'sheath'.

Seriously that's the hill you want to die on here?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:05 PM on November 25, 2010



SHEATH IS NOT A SWORD.

SHEATH IS WHERE THE SWORD GOES.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sheath

A class at Berkley teaches that "sheath" means "sword"?? And none of these girls bothered to look it up?
"as in" as in "in the context of". "Sheath, as in, sword" means "Sheath in the context of swords"
posted by delmoi at 12:06 PM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Regarding the usage of the word "radical" here (and claims that it marginalizes the message): as I understand it* the modern usage of radical was actually a response to the feminist usage of the term (originally intended in its original meaning, "at the root", It was an assertion that their critique got to the root of the problem of Patriarchy). By extension, the critics of feminism applied it as a term of marginalization to any political stance deemed immoderate or unreasonable.

These people don't mean "we are radical feminists" to say "we are extreme", they are citing their allegiance to the branch of feminism in whose honor the modern meaning "extremist" was acquired.

* it could be the usage is coming from a similar respinning the Marxist usage of the adjective radical
posted by idiopath at 12:08 PM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seriously that's the hill you want to die on here?

If we're talking about a school -- a place that should be dedicated to RIGOROUS logic -- the, yes, it's the very hill I want to die on.

I had a friend who took a film-studies class. He wrote a paper in which he suggested that the red wine the actors were drinking (in a Hitchcock film) symbolized blood. I have many, many problems with that statement. But I have even more problems with what the prof wrote in the margins of his paper (citing one of the reasons she gave him a low grade): "red doesn't symbolize blood. It symbolizes passion!"

Academia is rife with this sort of shit. People spouting all sorts of nonsense about language, gettig away with it because they're authority figures or because such statements are in vogue.

In my view it's a MAJOR problem. Fair enough if you disagree. Fair enough if you agree that it's a problem but don't think it's as big a deal as I do. Fair enough if you think it's a problem but disagree that what was going on the particular video isn't representative of the problem. If so, we disagree.
posted by grumblebee at 12:15 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


The 'vagina' comment, in the video, was in that form, so it sounded -- to me and some other people -- like they were making a factual, universal claim about how words work, rather than a comment about personal, idiosyncratic associations.

There is a huge difference between "We don't use vagina because it comes from the Latin word for sheath" and "No one should use vagina because it comes from the Latin word for sheath".
posted by 23skidoo at 12:25 PM on November 25, 2010


With all due respect grumblebee, we don't actually know that the way it was presented in class was simply "we don't use the word vagina because it's Latin for sheath". That could just be a summary. In the video it was just two sentences (because she was presenting it as a radical idea), but in the class it was probably a lot more than that. I could see if you disagreed with the content of the message as a subject for the class, but disagreeing with the way one person framed it in the video (a framing that took about 5 seconds) and using that to extrapolate how the discussion was framed in the class is a bit much.

The video was not a video of the class, but of some of the impressions and topics people got from it.
posted by Danila at 12:25 PM on November 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


we don't actually know that the way it was presented in class was simply "we don't use the word vagina because it's Latin for sheath". That could just be a summary.

Agreed.

It rubbed me the wrong way because I've heard hundreds of similar statements made IN classes, as if they were simply true.

I may be wrong, of course, because I can't read people's minds, but I suspect that some of the other people who were bothered by it objected to it for similar reasons.

It's like if you hear, "I just got robbed by a black guy." Maybe the person saying that isn't racist, but it's hard not to suspect he is.
posted by grumblebee at 12:30 PM on November 25, 2010


The sword is a penis.

It ain't gonna cut much, then.

Even if we accept the preposterous notion that the sword is a penis, the penis certainly isn't a sword. It's more like a sausage, only it doesn't taste anywhere near as good. Or so I imagine. *Cough*.
posted by Decani at 12:39 PM on November 25, 2010


Morrissey comments
posted by Free word order! at 12:42 PM on November 25, 2010


phallocentric use of language

Phallogocentrism - our favorite giggle word in grad school.
posted by bibliowench at 12:43 PM on November 25, 2010


grumblebee: If we're talking about a school -- a place that should be dedicated to RIGOROUS logic -- the, yes, it's the very hill I want to die on.

Aha. Not only are we not on the same hill, we are not on the same campus. I have a different view of the purpose and value of academia, and in my world a classroom should not primarily be dedicated to rigorous logic.

Which is fine; I now understand how our approaches here are so divergent, and why we do not see this issue (or non-issue) the same way.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:49 PM on November 25, 2010


If we're talking about a school -- a place that should be dedicated to RIGOROUS logic -- the, yes, it's the very hill I want to die on.
Nevermind you've provided no logical reason why a school should be dedicated to rigorous logic. What difference does it make if film criticism is logically rigorous or not?
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


and it's ok if some of the facts are wrong or the attitudes unattractive.
posted by facetious at 5:06 PM on November 25


No, it isn't. Accepting unattractive attitudes is one thing. But accepting wrong attitudes (by the way, facts can't be wrong - by definition) is about as non-okay as it is possible to get.
posted by Decani at 1:13 PM on November 25, 2010


The sword is a penis.

The penis mightier.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dammit, Morrissey!
posted by Sys Rq at 1:24 PM on November 25, 2010


And I'm going to call the vagina a "hot pocket".

Heh. That makes that Jim Gaffigan standup routine lot creepier.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:33 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Caliente pocket!
posted by HopperFan at 1:35 PM on November 25, 2010


Nevermind you've provided no logical reason why a school should be dedicated to rigorous logic.

I didn't provide that because it's a value. I thought I was upfront about that, above. But in case I wasn't clear about that, hopefully I am being clear about it, now. It's a value and values can't have logical reasons. Values are axioms.

Another value of mine is that racism is bad. It's probably your value, too. (I hope it is.) But you can't defend it logically, unless you just move the value-judgement to a lower-down turtle. You could say racism is bad because it causes hurt feelings, but that just shifts to another value: hurt feelings are bad. What is your logical proof that hurt feelings are bad? Eventually, you have to just say, "They're bad to me because it's counter to the way I want the world to be."

I think all fair-minded people try to limit the impact their personal values have on other people (I value french fries WITHOUT ketchup, but I'm not going to force you to forgo ketchup.) But when it comes to CORE values, we're kind of stuck, aren't we? If we don't expect other people to follow them (or at least take them seriously), we're denying ourselves in pretty fundamental ways. Hence, I expect you to abide by my value of not stealing.

What difference does it make if film criticism is logically rigorous or not?

The problem is that rigorous logic is generally stated as a value of educational institutuons. At least it this was the case when I was in school. Teachers said things like, "I like you, but I have to give you an F, because your reasoning is faulty, here." But this value was adhered to only when it was convenient to whoever was in power. Which sucks. (Another value.)

When is it okay to bring logic (and truth) int a film studies class? If a prof says "The Shining" was directed by Charlie Chaplin, is that a problem? How is that different from "Red doesn't symbolize blood; it symbolizes passion, and so I'm lowering your grade"?

I could list a lot of other values that lead me to feel the way they do: values about the impartiality of facts (facts aren't intrinsically fair or unfair to anyone and they have no biases); values about training the mind to think logically; values about consistency. Values about the fact that almost all human institutions are riddled with illogical rhetoric and that there should be ONE place that isn't.
posted by grumblebee at 1:38 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


tl;dr schools should be places of rigorous logic because that's what I want them to be.
posted by grumblebee at 1:39 PM on November 25, 2010


delmoi : Nevermind you've provided no logical reason why a school should be dedicated to rigorous logic. What difference does it make if film criticism is logically rigorous or not?

Well, it all depends on whether you think school should serve as a place to learn (and a place to learn how to learn), or a place for niche interest groups to mentally masturbate. I have to go with DarlingBri on this one, and pick the former.


grumblebee : It's a value and values can't have logical reasons. Values are axioms.

Of course they can - And if you can't justify your values, you need new ones.

We should consider racism "bad" because our brains build schemas of group behavior that we use to predicting future behavior by members of that group; Racism mistakes an easily observable but largely irrelevant trait for a meaningful determinant.

I don't know that I'd consider disliking ketchup a value, however. ;)
posted by pla at 1:53 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I get what you're saying, grumblebee, and I want to clarify that I don’t think the use of the word “vagina” among 21st-century English speakers necessarily transmits or promotes sexism. My point is that the United States is a culture imagined by many to be egalitarian, when it is in fact a society shot through with sexism.

Analogously, some language is imagined by many to be completely neutral, when it is in fact historically shot through with sexism.

Examining language as a palimpsest containing traces (largely undetectable in contemporary usage) of former sexist/prejudicial worldviews can be an effective strategy for arguing that sexism sometimes exists where we least expect it.

That is (and e.g.):
institutional sexism : United States :: etymological roots : contemporary language
This strategy can be quite effective at provoking dialogue about the meaning and effects of language on politics (as now). People* might raise questions about what constitutes bona fide oppressive circumstances and behavior as opposed to imagined and manufactured instances of the same. People might also argue the importance of identifying, counteracting, and rectifying genuine (as opposed to academically manufactured, for example) instances of sexist oppression.

So, yeah, revealing the etymological roots of "neutral" language can be an effective political strategy for examining sexism in a culture presumed to be relatively enlightened.

* When I was a university professor, I used this approach as an heuristic device, so these “people” were almost always students. Most normal people (non-academics and non-students) object that such approaches amount to beanplating (reading too much into something), a position I respect by not conducting etymological archaeologies when outside ivy walls and Internet discussion threads.
posted by mistersquid at 1:54 PM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


What I meant is that you can't use logic to prove that someone should adhere to a value without taking other values as givens.

Given that you value fairness, you should divvy up the pie evenly.

But if someone DOESN'T value fairness, why "should" he divvy up the pie evenly?

Maybe because he values social harmony or whatever. Or maybe because he values no-hearing-complaints. Still, if you take all value out of the discussion, you're left being unable to argue your point.

delmoi pointed out that I didn't logically defend my value that universities should be devoted to rigorous logic. I was responding by saying that, to me, there's no point. I could do it, but I'd just have to "prove" it with other values. And it's already pretty close to a core value of mine.
posted by grumblebee at 1:58 PM on November 25, 2010


My point is that the United States is a culture imagined by many to be egalitarian, when it is in fact a society shot through with sexism.

Who are these people who think that? What are their names? Where do they live? How come I never meet any of them? This is always the argument in these discussions — "of course we know better, but we have to do it that way because of the unthinking masses who don't." It's condescending and intellectually lazy. Debate the people who are actually there arguing with you, not the ignorant straw men in need of your enlightenment that you imagine are representative of mass culture.
posted by enn at 2:01 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


My point is that the United States is a culture imagined by many to be egalitarian, when it is in fact a society shot through with sexism.

Agreed.

Examining language as a palimpsest containing traces (largely undetectable in contemporary usage) of former sexist/prejudicial worldviews can be an effective strategy for arguing that sexism sometimes exists where we least expect it.

To me, this is like saying "Telling people that second-hand smoke kills a billion children a year is a good way to get people to stop smoking." It might be true that doing this will stop people from smoking, but it's based on a lie. A billion children DON'T die each year due to second-hand smoking.

Some people are in favor of bullshit rhetoric if it leads to a good end; some aren't. I'm one of the latter.

My analogy isn't perfect, because vagina DID once mean sheath. But if there's the SLIGHTEST suggested that somehow it STILL means that (to any sizable number of people) or that modern meanings somehow "contain" archaic meanings, then my analogy is apt.
posted by grumblebee at 2:03 PM on November 25, 2010


Who are these people who think that?

A lot of them are my friends. They don't believe it in an extreme way, but they say things like, "Sure, our culture has it's problems, but it's WAY better than most of the alternatives. There are things we need to work on, but we're generally pretty free of prejudice..."

That is something only a privileged person would say.

Frankly, I said things like that when I was younger and more ignorant. I said them because I grew up in an middle-class, feminist bubble. I was just describing the world as I saw it.
posted by grumblebee at 2:06 PM on November 25, 2010


Agreed. Since moving to San Francisco, I hear this kind of privileged talk coming from many Bay Area technology workers. It’s not always intellectually lazy to say "some people" and "many people" in place of naming names.
posted by mistersquid at 2:22 PM on November 25, 2010


Also, I include myself among those who hold both conscious and unconscious racist and sexist thoughts. So, I am thankful to have had access to education and exposure to people to help me grow beyond my own prejudices.

In the end, what is that any of us really know?
posted by mistersquid at 2:29 PM on November 25, 2010


The sword is a penis.

The penis mightier.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on 11/25


Ah, very good!

The vagina is a fucking sheath!

Let's use 'sword' and 'sheath,' and wiggle our eyebrows as we do.
posted by Sarah Jane at 2:39 PM on November 25, 2010


grumblebee: "tl;dr schools should be places of rigorous logic because that's what I want them to be."

Fine, thank you.

In a fifteen minute video, a dozen interesting and engaging young women said interesting things and we can't seem to discuss them because we can't stop talking about how ILLOGICAL it is to equate vaginas with sheaths.

And yeah you can apologise for your part in that several times, but dude - you've made14 posts basically reiterating that the first eight seconds don't meet your academic standards. Please go eat some pie.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:50 PM on November 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


But if there's the SLIGHTEST suggested that somehow it STILL means that (to any sizable number of people) or that modern meanings somehow "contain" archaic meanings, then my analogy is apt.

Some people further up in the thread have suggested that they were raised thinking their vaginas were sheathes for penises and babies. Are you saying that's coincidence? Someone in 1680 decided to use the Latin word for a sheathe to describe that part of a woman's body why? Are you saying that shouldn't matter? I'm not getting your big rhetorical vs. logical truth distinction, here. Watching the video, she doesn't clarify why the original meaning of the term is important, but I got what she meant without her doing that.

I don't know about you but, as a guy, it's not hard for me to understand the problem. Being on the other side, I wasn't sure what the problem with sheathe was until I watched the video. (internal dialogue: Was it the violence of the sword part? cause other things have sheathes... oh, no... its the part were we define the woman's body according to its usefulness to me. Alright... Oh yeah babies too...)

I'm finding it pretty easy to imagine the young woman who goes to college and is repeatedly blown away by each little bit of bullshit misogyny she learns about, especially the little things you don't think about like the power of names. So she made a weird 15min youtube video about it...Maybe you can get sophisticated and cynical fast about social justice stuff, but I'm glad to see people still going through the early stages where a female sexuality class can "change your life".

It's not like "society" becomes feminist and then we can just drop it and everyone after that point is born post-sexist.
posted by ServSci at 2:59 PM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't think this is about logic. To me the vagina=sheath thing provides a useful metaphor that may help a young woman speak with authority about a part of her body being self-defined. 'Sheath' is such an anachronistic term in this context that it can be used to conceptualise something for which alternative terms are too loaded. The fact that the word vagina doesn't commonly have a current association with sheath doesn't make the fact that many people do think vagina=passive repository untrue.

In that case saying 'we don't want to use the word vagina because it means sheath' is actually just shorthand for 'we want to use a word that enables us to describe this part of our body in terms that are useful and positive, and here's why...etc'.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2010


I hear you, DarlingBri, and I don't wish to offend or bore anyone, so I'll quit posting here. ServSci (and anyone else), I am available via memail if you wish to discuss.

In parting, I'll say I'd LOVE to see someone post something interesting here about female sexuality. Here's a start.
posted by grumblebee at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2010


In a fifteen minute video, a dozen interesting and engaging young women said interesting things and we can't seem to discuss them because we can't stop talking about how ILLOGICAL it is to equate vaginas with sheaths.

You know how sometimes here threads go off the rails because of one sentance in the post or an early comment that's off topic? This is a perfect example of that. Maybe she's got some great points, maybe she doesn't. In any case, we're not talking about them because she decided to get cute and play word games.

Vocabulary gymnastics can be irresitable. They're a cheap, easy way to make a mark and galvanize minds. They also have the danger of being a massive distraction if there's a significant plurality who disagree with the bold declaration. This sort of trick is really useful for separating the in group who love the reference from the evil out group who think it's idiotic. It's great for activism, not so great for communication or teaching.

She self-derailled. People here are calling her out on it, to the exclusion of actually engaging with what she had to say. That's why cheap tricks are bad for academic settings. They work great for Shouty McPunditson talk radio though. If she's trying to teach, she doing it wrong. If she's trying to be an activist or a politician then she's in the wrong forum, in my opinion.
posted by bonehead at 3:15 PM on November 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


bonehead: "That's why cheap tricks are bad for academic settings. If she's trying to be an activist or a politician then she's in the wrong forum, in my opinion."

Dude, it's YouTube. It's not an academic setting. Hell, it's not even Vimeo.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:06 PM on November 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


I think we are making a bit too light about the vagina/sheath connection. I can remember reading about the formalization and tolerance of specific forms of sexual violence (in, I think, a book by Natalie Zemon Davis) in early modern France where the groups of young men had songs about finding sheaths for their swords (nudge nudge), and simultaneously had real swords to help in their group rapes.

So for us it's a cute linguistic piece of trivia, but it's a linguistic connection that has had very real connections with sexual violence and ideas about who controls women's bodies. It's a good point to be making; I'm not so sure that replacing it with "cunt" as in The Vagina Monologues is any improvement, though.
posted by Forktine at 4:07 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know I said I was done here. Well, I lied, though I will be leaving after this.

Like some other men, I sometimes cause problems in discussions like this. I stand by what I said, but I feel bad about derailing the thread. So, I'm going to try to push it back on track.

The femsex site has a neat resources page and some links. (Note that they also have a Facebook page, but then who doesn't?) As noted in the video, other universities are getting in on the act.

It's a good thing that these classes are happening, because we have a lot to learn about the subject. There's a lot of bullshit out there and, worse, a a lot of violence against women -- in fact, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that "one in four college women will be victims of sexual assault by the time she graduates". And, of course, man young women are confused about their bodies.

Meanwhile, a Male Sexuality class at Berkley didn't turn out so well, generating a lot of letters to the editor.
posted by grumblebee at 4:20 PM on November 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Dude, it's YouTube. It's not an academic setting.

It's a first person narrative, but she's talking about what her femsex prof does in class. It's reported at a remove, but it doesn't change my argument. I still have a problem with the way that prof is using verbal judo on her class.

"We don't use the word 'vagina' because it's the Latin word for sword," shut down all other possible conversation, and, I'd argue, was intended to, to make an impression on her students. It's an electric wire. It's a great statement to have made at a political rally, but it replaces understanding with a slogan.
posted by bonehead at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2010


Putting that vagina/cunt action right near the start of the video is a great way to get attention, it's good storytelling- it's even good marketing. It's fucking horrible feminism. It's the fucking horrible feminism we talk about when we talk about fucking horrible feminism.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 4:57 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


bonehead, you're judging a misquote. scroll up.
posted by ServSci at 5:02 PM on November 25, 2010


Well, it all depends on whether you think school should serve as a place to learn (and a place to learn how to learn), or a place for niche interest groups to mentally masturbate. I have to go with DarlingBri on this one, and pick the former.

Why not both? You wouldn't expect logical rigor in, say, a dance class or a pottery class. Or a poetry class. Is criticism a science or an artform? I view this sort of literary stuff as a fun pastime for people, it's not anything serious.

If something can't be done by computer, it can't be done in a truly 'logically' rigorous way.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 PM on November 25, 2010


Meanwhile, a Male Sexuality class at Berkley didn't turn out so well

A class on Male Sexuality? I didn't think there's that much too it.
posted by delmoi at 6:26 PM on November 25, 2010


Love Hub -- Compatible with a number of devices
Portable Socket Set-- empowering and mechanical
'Stash Waxer -- implies oral from the beginning
Lady Lamp-- where the bulb goes
Doggie Bag--uk meaning could be a bit crazy
Liberty Bell -- note the crack, still let freedom ring.
posted by humanfont at 7:53 PM on November 25, 2010


The is why I only refer to my vagina as "the nappy dugout."
posted by bardic at 8:12 PM on November 25, 2010


"A class on Male Sexuality?"

I heard it didn't last long.
posted by bardic at 8:13 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Fasces: BYO whips, chains and novacaine.
posted by clavdivs at 8:27 PM on November 25, 2010


I suggest we start using my term for it: Happy Place. Nothing patriarchal there.
posted by MikeMc at 1:37 PM on November 25


Courtesy of my raging PMS, I must respectfully disagree.
posted by perilous at 9:17 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, who here has an opinion about "vaginas"?
posted by Balisong at 10:16 PM on November 25, 2010


I hope we've moved beyond arguing about semantics, though I feel mistersquid made a valuable point about seeing that as a metaphor for institutional sexism.

I do want to address, though, the sentiment of some people that thought that nothing in this video was a surprise. I think most of the sort of people on metafilter are 'enlightened' enough to have an understanding of social justice issues such as systematic oppression at at least a rudimentary level. We know how just how many women are victims of sexual harassment (and what constitutes sexual harassment). Some of us may even be able to see and understand our privilege.

I'm in high school, alongside relatively affluent classmates who, despite the diversity of our school, pretty much surround themselves with similar people (me included). I had no understanding of systematic oppression or any of our institutional oppression until last year. And that was common. I have begun to understand and identify with feminism, but I'm the exception among my classmates (and still too scared to speak up a lot of the time). I do think that for freshmen at Berkeley, many from backgrounds as sheltered as mine, a lot of this would be a revelation. It would be for me, too - maybe not all of it anymore, but certainly most.
posted by R a c h e l at 11:35 PM on November 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Someone said, "go eat some pie" earlier and it's been bugging me ever since. Was that a veiled reference to cunnilingus, or just an inducement to dessert?
posted by philip-random at 11:55 PM on November 25, 2010


Phillip-random, I think it was a reference to the fact that it's Thanksgiving in the US, and cunnilingus is part of the traditional celebration.
posted by NoraReed at 2:02 AM on November 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


pie is pie
posted by clavdivs at 2:02 AM on November 26, 2010


I just realized something.

These people that find word offensive, that find words to have strong emotional connections to their identity... These people have an internal monologue? They use words inside their head to think about themselves, not just when they need to communicate?
posted by HFSH at 3:47 AM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


philip-random: Someone said, "go eat some pie" earlier and it's been bugging me ever since. Was that a veiled reference to cunnilingus, or just an inducement to dessert

Sorry, that was me and it was a reference to Thanksgiving and actual pie - pumpkin, pecan, apple, etc - not cunnilingus. I was trying to find a kinder way to suggest the poster step away for a few hours, and pie seemed like a timely suggestion. I don't inhabit a world where genitals are referred to as "pie", nor would I ever refer to them as such, so the potential for confusion didn't occur to me until you brought it up.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:41 AM on November 26, 2010


This is the kind of shit that drove me out of Women's Studies 25 years ago. You can sheath a lot more things than a penis in a vagina, as even the most incompetent lesbian knows (and probably most straight women, too).
posted by QIbHom at 6:11 AM on November 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think the vulva should be called "brujita."
posted by Mister_A at 7:36 AM on November 26, 2010


OK, who here has an opinion about "vaginas"?

I do! The pluralization with an s is perfectly cromulent.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:30 AM on November 26, 2010


Right.

Upthread someone referred to the whole "vagina/sheath" thing as "political correctness" -- and that is dead on. I was in college right when the "political correctness" movement was going on, and it really soured on me early on because to me, it looked like it was focusing more on the symptom than the cure. Sure, I'd get mad if someone said "you Micks are always drunk", but it's not like someone saying "you Irish Americans are always drunk" would make it all better. And it was just too easy to take too far -- some people were up in arms about the expressions "a chink in one's armor" or "a nip in the air" because of the words "nip" and "chink", even though 99.99999% of the people using them absolutely did not intend to persons of Japanese and Chinese descent in either case. Language and word origins mean things, yes, but so does context, and the word origin of "vagina" is divorced far enough from the current parlance so as to matter much, much less than context.

However. I also took a course in human sexuality in college, and...one of the things they did discuss was language. But they spoke of it more conceptually -- for instance, the big objection to the whole "vagina-as-sheath" thing is probably rooted in the vagina being perceived as a passive player in the whole "penis-in-vagina" equation. The vagina is the penetratee, for lack of a better word. But - asked the teacher -- who says that it's not the other way around, and that it's not a case of the vagina engulfing the penis?...

The class did a lot for me, and I'm grateful for it. However, I think the way to combat any extant patriarchy and inequality in sex, and the way to encourage sex-positive attitudes, is by tackling slightly bigger fish than "it means sheath so we say something different". Or at least -- not making a big song-and-dance ABOUT it. If she just went ahead and used the word "cunt" without making a big production, I'm pretty sure people wouldn't be reacting anywhere near as much.

In closing: personally, I'm trying to get into the habit of using "semprini" as the generic word for genitalia.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:00 PM on November 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


and asks whether one class can change the way women see their bodies and their educational experience.

From my experience of being in college...I can tell you that one mandatory basic math class cannot change the way that people count incorrectly. To wonder whether one class can change the way women see their bodies and educational experience is rather absurd, and self-important.

Go Bears!
posted by hal_c_on at 3:38 PM on November 26, 2010


From my experience of being in college...I can tell you that one mandatory basic math class cannot change the way that people count incorrectly. To wonder whether one class can change the way women see their bodies and educational experience is rather absurd, and self-important.

....um....sex isn't remotely like math.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:44 PM on November 26, 2010


Seems like the word thing is a way to create a generation (cor at least classroom full) of people who will feel permanently not empowered because they will be unable to change the english language. Perhaps the rest of the presentation is great, but that one thing serves only to make people feel bad, and that's not cool.
posted by gjc at 5:26 PM on November 26, 2010


Even if we accept the preposterous notion that the sword is a penis, the penis certainly isn't a sword. It's more like a sausage, only it doesn't taste anywhere near as good.

Depends on how you cook it.
posted by heatherann at 5:33 PM on November 26, 2010


"....um....sex isn't remotely like math"

Unless you're one of those people who passionately adores math and finds it beautiful.

“Math is like love -- a simple idea but it can get complicated.” - R.Drabek
posted by HopperFan at 9:37 PM on November 26, 2010


... um ... sex isn't remotely like love.
posted by philip-random at 9:57 AM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


But sex is like math. Are you unfamiliar with Stochastic Calculus and the Weiner Process? Brownian motion?
posted by humanfont at 11:23 AM on November 27, 2010


which one involves bondage?
posted by philip-random at 11:46 AM on November 27, 2010


From my experience of being in college...I can tell you that one mandatory basic math class cannot change the way that people count incorrectly.

I'll bite: in which ways do people count incorrectly? Does it not go "1, 2, 3, 4..."?

posted by five fresh fish at 12:38 PM on November 27, 2010


"....um....sex isn't remotely like math"

The phrase Be fruitful and multiply comes to mind.

(I'm pretty sure He just meant that as opposed to Make like an amoeba and split, but I digress.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:09 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The femsex site has a neat resources page and some links. (Note that they also have a Facebook page, but then who doesn't?)

"Are male-identified people allowed to take this course?

Yes. However, please keep in mind that the course is first and foremost a women's space. While we do accept a number of male-identified people into our course each semester, spots are reserved primarily for those who are female-identified."

Also, some facts about previous students:
"She loves all things gender and sexuality related and happily will talk about these things to anyone who will listen (captive audiences are great for this). She also adores kitties (better known as mew mews), books, Berkeley Bowl, dancing, the beach and picnics involving wine. When she grows up she plans to be a writer/pastry chef/burlesque dancer extraordinaire."


(Almost) no men allowed, repeted use of the C word and wannabe burleque dancers: with this information, maybe Rob Schneider finally can get a good script for the long awaited sequel to "The Hot Chick", "The Hot Chick Goes to Berkeley".
posted by iviken at 3:55 AM on November 28, 2010


At the risk of embarking on a derail (but it is related!) my father once confused me greatly when fixing the sink and decrying the wrong size of the nipples available. Yes, language can be confusing. (I was only about six, and he explained what he was talking about in a most understandable way. I think that was my first experience of double entendre.)
posted by emhutchinson at 3:32 PM on November 28, 2010


Pretty sure this thread is dead, but I can't believe this didn't come up.

In the way that most English speakers use the word, "vagina" is incorrect. The correct word is "vulva". The vagina is the birth canal, and yep, the place where penises go during (a lot of) penetrative sex. The vulva is the whole package.

My lady bits are more than just a hole. Kthx.

(And, no, this is not about "political correctness". Just, y'know, actual correctness.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:43 PM on November 28, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not to toot my own horn, Sara C., but *ahem*

(P.S. In the name of "actual correctness," I'm afraid I'll have to correct you. The vulva is in fact not "the whole package"; it's just the wrapping paper, the bow, and the greeting card that plays music when you open it. There is AFAIK no "real"--i.e. L.--word to describe a lady's entire goings-on in the underpants department. FWIW, the same is true of the male whatchamacallits. Genitalia is probably the best word we've got, and it's not even gender-specific. I suppose yoni--not Latin, but plenty old--could apply for yous what's got 'em, but that's got the potentially objectionable "woman=mother" connotation going against it, so...)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:11 AM on November 29, 2010


The vulva is in fact not "the whole package"; it's just the wrapping paper, the bow, and the greeting card that plays music when you open it.

Yeah, see, I don't really consider "all the parts that are not the actual vagina" to be just extraneous gift wrapping to the really important part, the one guys put their dicks in. That's what people throughout the thread are trying to get across, and an element of what the professor in the video is trying to get across.

And when most people use the term "vagina" casually, as a catch-all for "visible female genitalia", they're actually referring to the vulva.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2010


Yeah, see, I don't really consider "all the parts that are not the actual vagina" to be just extraneous gift wrapping to the really important part, the one guys put their dicks in. That's what people throughout the thread are trying to get across, and an element of what the professor in the video is trying to get across.

I just meant they're on the outside. Jesus.

There's also plenty of internal genitalia to which the terms vagina and vulva also do not apply.

And when most people use the term "vagina" casually, as a catch-all for "visible female genitalia", they're actually referring to the vulva.

Except for men, who think of them only as sheathes for our weapons penises. Got it.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:19 AM on November 29, 2010


IMO the important thing isn't so much what one calls it, as much as how well one uses it.

Practice makes perfect.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:23 AM on November 29, 2010


Yeah, see, I don't really consider "all the parts that are not the actual vagina" to be just extraneous gift wrapping to the really important part, the one guys put their dicks in.

Heartily seconded. Because there ain't no way in SHIT the clitoris is just "gift-wrapping."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 PM on November 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heartily seconded. Because there ain't no way in SHIT the clitoris is just "gift-wrapping."

Do I really need to explain the bit about the singing card?

Besides, the present is just tube socks.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:07 AM on November 30, 2010


Practice makes perfect.

five fresh five, would you like to elaborate on what you are imagining both "practice" and "perfect" to mean in that sentence?
posted by DarlingBri at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2010


I mean try lots of things and then do the ones you really liked as often as you can.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on December 1, 2010


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