It all began when I was asked recently to give an interview about my views on feminism for a young sex educator is Seattle who was taking a course on female studies. I wish I could take my interview back. I can see my arrogance now. My own stupidity in believing that women had come of age and that feminism was almost passe. I told her that women like me simply accepted our equals rights - at least in America.
That we have stepped on the shoulders of the women that came before, and now we walk in their glory. That for most American women, we simply accepted our full fledged rights, and believed that were were considered equal. Well, horseshit. I take it all back. I was wrong. Over the last four months I come to see this line through the health care system and through our very own sex community where we doubt a woman's voice on some very deep levels.
Where a woman’s sexuality and desires are still judged, shamed and turned into some kind of "disorder", where we can't say "Clitoris" or write "Clitoris". Because it'a a part of the female body that is directly linked to female sexual pleasure.
And while we have gotten to a place where we can speak "Vagina" in some places - the Vagina is not directly linked to female pleasure. The vagina can be also be seen as a vehicle for birth and male pleasure. It has other purposes other than female pleasure, so, the vagina is starting to get a "pass". But there are still parts of the world they are still cutting out the female clitoris because female pleasure is unseemly - dare I say it? Dangerous.
We live in a world where a woman who is well educated and respected in the health care field (my sister) is dismissed in her symptoms for FOUR months and told she was having anxiety and should see a shrink. The same sister is who just had brain surgery and yes, we lost four months. Because she was dismissed as crazy or stressed or anxious. And it's not just men, it is also women who display this underlying misogynistic behavior, where society tends to characterize women in crisis on any level as “She doesn't know her own mind.” And you better be careful and "not dip your dick in crazy". Do we have similar slams against the masculine? I don't think so.
Why are women always threatened with the word "Crazy"? We were put in asylums when we fought for the vote! "Crazy" or "Hysterical" is used as a way of deflecting a woman's true expression of her feelings and desires, it's a misuse of the term, and it's a way of dismissing a woman's feelings, creating distrust in a woman's authentic experience, and point of views.
And it's a covert way of diminishing a woman's power of her own sexual and personal agency. It undermines her in every possible way and the impact can be extraordinary and expensive. And so many of us buy it again and again.
Being dismissed in this way is very expensive on so many levels. When we look to discredit a woman in the authenticity of her experience we impact her life and the culture around her in so many countless ways that it can make my head spin.
It is astonishing to me, that good people are still throwing "crazy" around as a way of dismissing and diminishing a woman's voice — and taking away her sexual, political or wellness agency by making her “suspect.” It's all about making the feminine "suspect", that's the easiest way to discredit her. Watch it play out around you - once you start to pay attention you will be shocked at who is playing this game.
Supporting women to believe in their power and have the ability to act on behalf of their own needs, desires, and wishes is supporting women to have “agency" in all areas of their lives. That is the game I am playing. That is where I want to support women to live.
We continue to convince women to internalize the sociocultural assumptions that grant their male partners, the political and health care system and their communities needs over their own. We shame women for listening to their own voice and their own needs.
Understanding this pattern of behavior is empowering to women as they negotiate their personal and complete agency with health care providers, lovers, and life partners. We have to learn to recognize the pattern so we can break it.
And yes, there is still some fear of sexually empowered women – just under the surface. In the recent documentary "This Film is Not Yet Rated" the dreaded NC 17 rating which is basically an X rated, is not given for violence. You can shoot down an entire village of children and not get a NC 17. But show a woman having too much sexual pleasure? You will get that NC17 rating so fast that your head will spin.
Maybe that is why Clitoris is such a loaded word.
Look how far we have come in the conversation around gender equality and yet where it gets kinky, is when we talk about sexual pleasure and the female clitoris. I just had the word removed the title of a popular blog that I just wrote.
Historically, sex-related language has been a highly sensitive area. But many of us think that in Western countries at the very least, that we cannot tolerate or defend any form of public censorship around the use of sex related language as it pertains to basic human anatomy - yet in the United States women's bodies are being censored through language routinely and there simply isn't a lot of discussion around this and the psychological effects that this censorship has on women's relationship with their own bodies. In fact, while scanning the literature - I could find very little. And this ties into everything I have said above. This is a web. A perfect storm that can happen to any woman, at any time.
Many of us have experience with the female body being censored. Breast feeding in public is a very well known topic of censorship because we have sexual fetishism around the female breast, and cannot somehow understand that the breast has other functions other than getting people off. So no naked breasts or nipples on Facebook, but men are allowed to go bare chested.
But again, in contrast, I have heard very little about the use of language in the realm of censorship of the female body, but as a writer and and sex educator for women this is something that I confront all the time. And if we are not allowed to speak female bodies how are we suppose to understand women's bodies?
Censoring our language, and our ability to write and name our body parts is a very under studied and insidious way of keeping girls and women in their place. If the simple naming of our own anatomy is pornographic, unseemly and an embarrassment - how are women able to relate to our bodies?
When I tried to update Facebook from my snazzy new Samsung Note Three, I was unable to write the word clitoris. My auto correct kept insisting that I was trying to write "Clinton". My friend with an iphone was offered the word "citrus".
I had no problems writing "penis" or "scrotum".
In a interview I did awhile back in the Detroit Free Press for an article entitled "The V Word" all about the use of the word "Vagina", commentators were not allowed to use the word Vagina in the comments section. It was deleted as it was declared pornographic.
In The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir, De Beauvior recognizes that “to be present in the world implies strictly that there exists a body which is at once a material thing in the world and a point of view towards the world” (Beauvoir 39). But we are still denying the body.
This is a very complicated web that we are weaving. A web where some are being seen and told that they do not know their own mind. A society that makes violence more acceptable than female sexual pleasure. And we feel it, us empowered women anyway.
We feel this fear and tamp down - all of us are doing it on some level - yes even me.
After all we don't want to be out cast. Whether it is through how we express our desires, or how we are heard. It's a price I'm no longer willing to pay anymore on any level. I wheeled my sister into major surgery. For four months she was dismissed. I have heard women who have emotions, are outspoken about sexuality and their own desire dismissed as "crazy". I have had my own writing censored. I am so done with all of it.
Fine, if I have to reclaim the word "feminist" as my own then I will. I'm angry and I'm willing to use my voice.