Dumbing down women's health doesn't serve women.
Here’s a great example of the shame we place on our anatomy, unknowingly, and how it passes down from mother to daughter. When my daughter was 4 years old, I was called by her friend’s mother and the conversation went something like this...
“Hi, this is Amy (not her real name, of course). Do you know what your daughter taught my daughter in school today?”
I’m thinking, oh no. I swear a lot in real life. A lot. Bad mom. Crap. The F word. I was so ashamed. I thought my daughter would never have any friends because of potty-mouthed mommy who thinks she’s a badass.
“No, what? I’m so sorry if it was inappropriate.”
Pause. I could tell she was building up the courage to even say the word. The F word? No, the C word? I’m thinking I don’t use that word. I think it’s degrading. Oh, the C word is worse because I am ob/gyn and I should really respect all females and never say anything degrading towards women. It must be the C word.
“She taught my daughter the word vagina.”
I could laugh. I could make a snide comment. I could be mean. I choose to do the right thing, apologize.
“Oh, really. I’m sorry that you found this offensive. By the way, what do you call it?” I ask, politely, biting back every urge to say woman, whaaaaat!
“We call it private parts, or down there.” I couldn’t take it. I finished the conversation by saying “Okay. I’ll talk to my little girl and make sure she understands that some words are not to be used in public. I left the conversation feeling thankful my daughter didn't teach her daughter the word “clitoris”.
Yes, my four year old knew her entire anatomy and could name off those scandalous organs inside and out - correctly, I might add, and use basic language to describe the function and location of each of them. Not because we spent hours studying anatomy or looking at pictures. She learned by asking. I taught by telling her the real names just like I would explain nose, eyes, ears. Instead, it was vagina, clitoris, vulva, discharge, urethra, ovaries, and so on.
Today, when these words spew out of my mouth or on social media, it doesn't phase her. She’s not embarrassed about her body and for sure not embarrassed about using correct terms. Her female organs are not taboo. I truly believe we cannot have a meaningful conversation about women's health or sexuality if we don’t know the true anatomical names.