Earlier today, NinjaCate wrote a takedown of a piece from The Nation. I think both her takedown and the original piece are worth reading. But there's something that I'm confused about, and a day of mulling it over hasn't changed that.
She quoted this part of the piece:
In a revolution-eats-its-own irony, some online feminists have even deemed the word "vagina" problematic. In January, the actress and activist Martha Plimpton tweeted about a benefit for Texas abortion funds called "A Night of a Thousand Vaginas," sponsored by A Is For, a reproductive rights organization she's involved with. Plimpton was surprised when some offended Internet feminists urged people to stay away, arguing that emphasizing "vaginas" hurts trans men who don't want their reproductive organs coded as female. "Given the constant genital policing, you can't expect trans folks to feel included by an event title focused on a policed, binary genital," tweeted @DrJaneChi, an abortion and transgender health provider. (She mentioned "internal genitals" as an alternative.) When Plimpton insisted that she would continue to say "vagina," her feed filled up with indignation. "So you're really committed to doubling down on using a term that you've been told many times is exclusionary & harmful?" asked one self-described intersectional feminist blogger
And added this commentary:
Let's completely and totally ignore the fact that context matters and that while "vagina" is an awesome, amazing word (and organ!) they are not exclusive to women, nor do all women have them, and using the word in this context is trans exclusionary.
I don't agree, and I don't know if that's because I just... don't agree... or because I don't understand.
"A Night of a Thousand Vaginas" seems to me not trans exclusionary at all. To start with, it's not "A Night of a Thousand Women" which I could see as exclusionary to trans men. It's vaginas.
Not all women have vaginas. Not all vagina-havers are women. And not all vagina-havers need access to abortion services (post-op trans women, trans men who've had hysterectomies or similar surgeries, women who've had their tubes tied, women who are menopausal, women who are infertile, etc.). But the fact remains that everyone who needs access to abortion services has a vagina.
I feel like the organizers' choice of words was being read to mean, instead, that all people who have vaginas need access to abortion services. But this is patently absurd. Menopause? That's a state a huge number of women are in.
"Vagina" has become a political term. Politicians have been sanctioned for daring to utter the word in abortion debates. Hello, Michigan? Lisa Brown? Transvaginal Ultrasounds became such a point of popular discussion that Jon Stewart talked about it as a good band name. Vagina, vagina, vagina.
And why it it censored, why is it a "bad word"? Because it means "pussy." The abortion debate is very much about women's sexuality. Women are being sanctioned for spreading their legs, for "allowing" men to get to that thing, that stuff, between their legs. "Vulva" never caught on because we're interested in a general term that means... pussy. The whole thing. The whole area. That which we "allow" men to access when we "spread our legs" like "sluts" and get pregnant.
Is it really trans exclusionary at an abortion fundraiser? And if it is, is that more important than the other political issues involved?