Speaking of words, did anyone catch the piece in this week's New York Times Sunday Styles section about "vajayjay"? The term's not particularly new -- it started gaining real traction as a euphemism for vagina in early 2006 when it made it into a "Grey's Anatomy" script -- but as your up-to-the-minute news source on trendy anatomical descriptors, we thought it was worth pointing out that apparently it now qualifies as part of the news that's fit to print. Oprah Winfrey's saying it, Jimmy Kimmel has said it -- and now, at last, Broadsheet has, too. (Observant readers may note that the Times piece claims the term has appeared in Salon -- it has, but not on Broadsheet.)
So. Vajayjay. What do you think? Is it another example of our culture's discomfort with female anatomy? (Eve Ensler, quoted by the Times, wrote years ago that the word "vagina" is a term "that stirs up anxiety, awkwardness, contempt and disgust.") Or is its popularity a result of the fact, as the Times suggests, that "there was a vacuum in popular discourse, a need for a word for female genitalia that is not clinical, crude, coy, misogynistic or descriptive of a vagina from a man's point of view"? It is hard, after all, to imagine picking up a prank phone call to hear a breathy male voice on the other end telling you things he'd like to do to your vajayjay.
I think I'm somewhere in the middle on this one. I'm not a huge fan of the word vagina itself -- I mean, if we want to get really technical, it's Latin for "sheath," which gives it an inherently male slant. (It seems weird that we'd refer to a major part of female genitalia with a word that could be defined as "penis casing" instead of, like, "birth passage" or something more maternal.) But then again, I do agree with the viewpoint of Carol A. Livoti, a Manhattan obstetrician and gynecologist quoted by the Times, who said she was worried that terms like vajayjay could "render women incapable of explaining their symptoms to health professionals." Because just as it's difficult to imagine a sexual harasser using the term, it also seems childish and shameful to go to your doctor and, when asked why you're visiting, respond with a whisper, "Because there's something wrong with Miss Vajayjay."