Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Offending People

I posted a link to my last blog post on Facebook. My mom (who is on Facebook) raised the concern that linking to such a post in such a forum might do more harm than good.

First let me say that while I've written about my mom on my blog -- things about not feeling supported -- I have an incredible mother. I've written some frustrated things because vulvodynia has been a learning experience for us all. I have an advantage because I'm on the inside of the empathy exchange and am seeing firsthand what different kinds of exchanges feel like to the one in need. My mom is a very empathetic person (and also a secret zenmaster) but she can't know what works for *me* nor can she know what this particular situation feels like in general. We've been fighting frequently the past few months and it's entirely because I'm so stressed out. So sorry, mom, for venting about you on my blog when in reality you continually amaze me and I wish everyone in the world knew you.

So mom could be right about my link doing more harm than good on Facebook, but I want to say why I did it and why I'd do it again.

First, that particular post has a very scary word at the top that I can't even type here without Blogger asking me if I want to flag my own blog. I admit that I should have at least linked to the post with the disclaimer "not safe for work." I forget that people surf the web at work because I can't do that as a waitress. "Not safe for work" is good practice, but come on people. It's Facebook and you're at work. (Nobody has complained yet, though, nor have I received complaints about past linkings.)

Second, about the word. C♥nt is like n♥gger. Some people (lots and lots for the latter) have repossessed it after its turn as derogation, and some people (Bill Cosby for the latter) still find it offensive. To me, c♥nt has never really been that offensive, but I find it empowering precisely because it scares so many people. C♥nt: yes, I have one. Deal with it.

As feminists like to say, we don't have any word referring to the male member that is nearly so offensive as c♥nt or tw♥t or even p♥ssy. If I type cock and dick, Blogger probably won't think anything of them -- both have different, totally unanatomical meanings, and both refer to an image that we somehow find more acceptable.

Which brings me to my third point: the double standard. Our society is so overrun with penis references that we don't even bat an eye about them anymore. This morning, the very mainstream radio show we listen to at work was talking about Viagra ice cream -- along with all the necessary jokes ("soft serve"). Beyonce is singing on the radio about how Jay-Z (I'm assuming?) has an "ego" that's "too big, it's too wide, it's too strong, it won't fit." Each year there are countless boy-centric movies obsessively focused on the plight of the main characters' packages. Austin Powers -- endless dong synonyms and we get "Alotta Fagina"?!?! THAT'S NOT EVEN FUNNY.

The entire society snorts at any reference to male genitalia (except that one, ew), but women are represented -- and taught to act like -- they don't have anything down there. Imagine a twentysomething actress saying casually in a mainstream movie, "My p♥ssy itches."

I'm trying to think of overt hooha references in movies but the only one that comes to mind is American Pie -- which I'm actually thrilled about as a fan of the word p♥ssy but very tired of as a fl♥tist.

On top of all those reasons for sharing the link, there is this one: NO ONE TALKS ABOUT VULVODYNIA. So I am going to talk about it. And you know what? My talking about it has *already* changed someone else's life.

Every time I've shared a link on Facebook, someone new has written to me (usually privately) to show support for my condition and/or appreciation for my blog. I've been linking to my blog for a long time on my college's private Facebook-like site and I've gotten incredible support and thank-yous from friends, acquaintances, and perfect strangers. And aside from the three hate comments I've gotten here on the blog, I have never had anyone write to me and tell me I've offended them. (For the record, two of the hate comments (by the same person on the same post) told me I was stupid to tax the medical system by going to the doctor.)

I hope I haven't offended anyone. If I have, I sincerely apologize. I also hope that anyone who might be offended understands that my blog is a voice for a condition and a way for that condition to gain awareness. I don't write it to offend. I'm not American Pie reincarnate.

One more thing. My mom worries that someone out there might be making fun of me because of what I've written on my blog. Here's the thing: OF COURSE SOMEONE HAS MADE FUN OF ME FOR WHAT I'VE WRITTEN ON MY BLOG. There are some very stupid people in this world, among whom are some of the people I'm friends with on Facebook. I remember what these guys said to me in middle-school gym class before they knew what they were saying. Some seem to have grown up, but some would probably say the exact same things today if they read my blog.

And if they do, let them. If they're still as scared of the p♥ssy as they were when they were 12, here's the same nod and smile I delivered 17 years ago.


  1. Agreed! Damn straight girlie!!!

  2. Everything anyone says is always going to offend someone. I think what you do is very brave, telling people about your condition and I think that people who have suffered or who still suffer from it are comforted to be able to identify with someone and to know someone who is fighting so hard against it. Please continue to write because I feel that you help more people who need you than offend people who aren't worth it.

  3. You're a rock star...eff the naysayers! I really liked the points you made about the linguistic implications. Never thought about it quite that way...

  4. As a guy, this is the only exposure I have to vulvodynia. I appreciate your honesty and plain language.

    By the way, I listen to one radio show where every once in a while they mention the male host is scratching his balls while on the air. However, you never hear about the female co-hosts adjusting their panties or b♥♥bs. I'd probably run off the road if one of them ever said "My p♥ssy itches." Nothing wrong with that, but like most of American society, I am not used to hearing the word p♥ssy outside of social settings.

  5. Thanks for your support, guys!!!