I've written about the very strange character of small town in Canada before. Recently, the cultural horizon of my tiny corner of it (Richmond, BC) has been enlarged by the Winter Olympics, by visits from Stephen Colbert and Jay Leno and by the impending comedic presence of Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and -- that wacky child of rocket scientists -- Jack Black.
But elsewhere, British Columbia is sometimes stuck back in the era of flat earths, Monkey Trials and 'fundies' (short for 'fundamentalists', not for people who have too much fun).
To raise money for a woman's shelter, activists of the South Okanagan Women In Need Society staged a woman's play in Summerland, BC. They chose The Vagina Monologues, a successful off-Broadway play that culminated in a 2001 Madison Square Gardens performance starring Melissa Etheridge and Whoopi Goldberg.
Nonetheless, some Summerland residents are deeply offended by the public use of the V-word which appears on posters and brochures for the fundraiser. You can read all about that here.
While Summerland's stodgiest citizens tear down these offensive posters, let me review what the rest of the world is doing relative to their vaginas.
1. The slang synonym for vagina, the C-word, called the most offensive English swearword by the Oxford English Dictionary, has now been used openly on television in: Oz, Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, True Blood, Weeds, Californication and 30 Rock.
I'm really interested in swearwords because they reveal so much about what a culture deems sacred, or prohibited. There's a wonderful journal called Maladicta devoted to the cross cultural study of these words.
In English the importance of a word-concept is identified by its number of synonyms and by all other associated words and phrases. Once you start to list them, you'll find it's very hard to run out of words connected to vagina. And as far as slang synonyms go, I think their taboo quality and power to offend are radically reduced with each exposure and use. Yes, as a liberal, I do think that's a good thing.
2. Vajazzling: In my book Made To Break, I revealed that the phrase "to tie one on" refers to the lovely ribbons that once adorned the first generation of mass produced condoms which were made of inelastic vulcanized rubber. Many men of my great grandfather's generation liked these ribbons and were sorry to see them go when the world switched over to latex. Well, apparently women are no different. They like to decorate what they've got and do so by adorning their ... what-ya-call'ems ... with jewels, crystals, what-have-you. Many beauty salons now cater to this trend.
3. My Lovely Pink Button: A new line of dyes, stains, glosses (lipsticks?) are available to beautify women's blossoms, and it's not such a strange idea. The traditional symbol of the vagina, the rose, has now been hybridized so that a rainbow of shades and hues are available. Apparently someone wondered why we shouldn't enjoy as much variety in the real thing as we do with its symbolic, floral representation. Some feminists don't like it, but this trend is becoming quite popular. I'm suspending judgment until I hear from a truly hot feminist like Germaine Greer, Jane Fonda or my old teacher, Professor Donna Landry of the University of Kent. Honestly, Donna, can color choice ever be a bad thing?
4. Cultivating Good Taste: The best thing about earning an undergrad degree in linguistics was the ability to describe oneself as a cunning linguist. (Yes. Sorry. The joke soon got very stale). The newly conceived vagina product "Linger," however, prevents staleness freshening the vagina with a long-lasting tasty after-dinner style mint.
Meanwhile, Lifestyle Nutrition has introduced a product called BOP for Her. It's a dietary supplement -- I kid you not -- that "sweetens and purify a woman's sex fluids for increased oral intimacy." (There is also a corresponding supplement, BOP for Him, that performs a similar function for men).
5. And there are other things in the news. If you Google "vagina" you'll find a variety of people expressing vaginal opinions including Jennifer Love Hewitt and Kathy Griffin. (I can't wait to hear what Sarah Palin has to say on the subject of redneck vaginae.) There's even an erotic vagina-smelling perfume now. Toronto-based science writer Zosia Bielski uses her characteristic humor to describe many of these trends here.
Of course, none of this helps the homeless or battered women of Summerland, BC, or their young dependents. Let me thank them for their patience with me now and ask you to help them by visiting their site, South Okanagan Women In Need Society.
Please consider donating the price of two theater tickets. Tell them I sent you ;-)