Children and “anatomically correct” words

By now, Michigan (my home state) legislators Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum are infamous for their comments during a State House debate about abortion legislation. There’s a good recap on Michigan Radio, an NPR station. The women were sanctioned by their colleagues for using the words “vagina” and “vasectomy.” In response, Brown said, “I used an anatomically correct word. I said ‘vagina.’ Can I not say ‘elbow?’ I don’t see what the difference is.”

At my house, BE and BC both know the anatomically correct words for all their body parts, including “vagina” and penis.” I’m totally with Brown on this one; I’ve told my kids many times, that these are just names for parts, no different than “arm” or “leg.” However, we’ve had to have several discussions about using these words outside of our home. I’ve explained to them, that some people get upset at these words, and that it’s not ok to use them in public.

I’m completely aware that “penis” is more acceptable than “vagina,” and that unfortunately, women are still treated differently than men, just as Brown and Byrum were. However, a few months ago, BC experienced his own “sanction” for using the word “penis.” The father of one of his preschool friends told me that BC had said the word “penis” to his daughter. And, he was very upset about it. When we got home that night, I had to remind BC that this is a word for use at home. We haven’t had any problems since, but this incident with Brown and Byrum just reminded me how ridiculous it is that these words are still considered “dirty” and “shameful.” And, how ridiculous it is that sexism is still a problem in this country. For proof, just check out this quote from Representative Mike Calton: “”What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even  want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

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