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Author Topic:   Vulvas and vaginas and labia, oh MY!
Miz Scarlet
Sexpert

Posts: 19846
From: Minneapolis
Registered: May 2000

posted 11-03-2005 09:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Miz Scarlet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So, in the October issue of Seventeen magazine was a WONDERFUL two page spread with some basics about vulval health and anatomy, what's normal (even including medically plain but illustrative inner labia photos, and eve a differential for an intact and eroded hymen in the basic diagram!), what's healthy to do in vaginal care and what isn't, the works. It was really an excellent piece, and you can see scans of it here and here. (Not sure why we needed the photo of girls in their undies, but so it goes.)

A friend of mine passed this to me when it was published, and I was really elated, and thought Seventeen deserved big props for doing it.

But lo: while the usual sexist and sex-selling tripe was considered fine to have on the shelves in grocery stores, and the common content of teen mags which in effect tries to sell girls their own bodies via cosmetics and fashiion focus and advertising is okay, by one chain (and no doubt plenty more) this wasn't.

What do you think about this?

And statements like this: "'Once their innocence is gone, it's gone,' said Debbie Cottingham, 42, toting groceries alongside her 14-year-old daughter. She said it's her job as a mother to teach her three daughters about their bodies.

(As if knowing about your own anatomy makes you less innocent? Why the heck are vulvas and vaginas somehow different from elbows or mouths in this respect? And why is it okay to SELL the vagina, or the promise of its sexual use, but not to explain its health and functions?)

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Heather Corinna
Editor & Founder, Scarleteen
ST blog about Heather & Scarleteen
"You have to love women who are brave enough to do things so big in a world where women are supposed to be so small." - Andrea Dworkin

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DarkChild717
Advocate

Posts: 1420
From: The Evergreen State
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 11-03-2005 01:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DarkChild717     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Heh. Oooooh, boy.

I shop at that grocery store, and I've never heard of them actually pulling a magazine. I'd rather see a well done article on a woman's body than what Cosmo sells.

One thing in particular stood out to me (warning! history/senior research/rant coming on!):

"Once their innocence is gone, it's gone," said Debbie Cottingham, 42, toting groceries alongside her 14-year-old daughter. She said it's her job as a mother to teach her three daughters about their bodies.

Uh, not from my research, it ain't. Early in the 1900's, Victorian mothers passed that duty to the doctors and Girl Scouts. It was against their high moral ideals to discuss such unsavory topics.

In the fifties, they passed that duty to the product companies and to the schools. Heck, at least it wasn't the Girl Scouts anymore!

Today, that job has been passed to the product companies, the family doctor and the internet.

(See Brumberg's Body Project and Karen Houppert's The Curse for more info, if you'd like.)

There's a reason that 17 ran that article--it's because fewer and fewer mothers are actually doing anything to TEACH their daughters. I understand it's not all mother's who have passed on that duty, but it's quite a few of them. Besides--at fourteen, her daughter has already seen Molly Grows Up or some other modern variation.

The videos are crap, frankly. I hope they've gotten better. But anyhoo. Bravo to 17, and shame on the Victorian-esque parents who have gotten their knickers in a twist.

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Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion--Marcus Aurelius

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Beppie
Advocate

Posts: 2131
From: Australia
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 11-03-2005 05:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Beppie     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In my opinion, the pulling of these magazines by Albertson's or any other chain was not motivated by any true "moral" concern-- to me, it seems like the real, implicit concern was that this article might actually connect young women with their bodies. And if you have young women who are connected with their bodies, then they might *gasp* *shudder* come to believe that they actually own their own bodies, and start thinking that maybe THEY should be the ones who decide when and if they should remove hair, pierce skin, display flesh, engage in sexual activity and become pregnant or continue a pregnancy. Clearly, this sort of empowerment is something from which stores like Albertson's must protect innocent young women.

(No doubt my opinion here will seem a little far-fetched to some-- but think about it: these stores continued to sell magazines that presented a very narrow view of female sexuality, magazines which use SOME women's bodies as a means of narrowing that view-- any women who don't have that body type are excluded, although encouraged to strive for that body type, while women with that body type are constructed as being a particular "type" of sexual creature. This absolutely disconnects women from their bodies, and once that has occurred, the media has more social power to tell women what they should do with their bodies and when in any circumstance.)

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PERVasive
Activist

Posts: 64
From: Boston, MA
Registered: Aug 2005

posted 11-03-2005 07:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for PERVasive     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Beppie - I agree that that is probably why the store agreed to pull the magazine. There is another piece, however, which is probably why some parents complained. People are scared of their bodies, because they are scared of having to take responsibility for them. Why else would they sell their bodies to companies so easily? Parents are scared that their children may be more mature than they are, and so they do whatever they can to stop kids from taking responsibility for their own bodies.

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- PERVasive

"Don't let your schooling get in the way of your education." - Mark Twain

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Miz Scarlet
Sexpert

Posts: 19846
From: Minneapolis
Registered: May 2000

posted 11-03-2005 08:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Miz Scarlet     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm not sure it's accurate to say most, or even man, parents are scared their children are more mature than they are. That srikes me as really pushing it. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

But more informed? Yes, absolutely. I think that's both valid and common enough. More savvy? Maybe. More exposed? Absolutely.

I do think -- not to defend that mother, because I think it was an utterly moronic comment and really sexist, to boot -- that sometimes those concerns are coming from a sincere, caring place, from a wish that teen girls weren't wrrying, for instance, that their bodies as they are are not right, that they're not healthy, et cetera. From the realistic knowledge that their kids likely WILL get that information elsewhere, when parents wish it'd be from them, even if they know better from their own teen years.

Mind you, I think there are also crappy motives of control, envy and the lot, too, but not anything close to always. I also think that saying this shouldn't be available is hgwash: an attentive parent would snap up to the fact that it is, see an opportunity, and share that information with their kid.

And Beppie, I hear you, and I agree.

Caitlin: so glad the Houppert book ended up being so interesting to you!

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DarkChild717
Advocate

Posts: 1420
From: The Evergreen State
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 11-03-2005 09:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for DarkChild717     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Oh, the Houppert book is fantastic. Now I just need to find a copy for myself, since they don't appear to be in print anymore. I eventually have to give this copy back.

Just as an aside, I've noticed in my research a distinct change in attitudes about "ownership" of a girls body after 1972--that was the year a doctor was sued for giving a girl spermicidal foam and showing birth control during a lecture. Many of the things I'm reading hail that as a landmark.

There's still a residual, obviously, of the idea of "joint ownership" of a girls body. But I'm glad it's not nearly as prevelant as it was thirty years ago.

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Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion--Marcus Aurelius

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Kafir
Neophyte

Posts: 7
From: WA + CA
Registered: Jul 2002

posted 11-04-2005 12:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kafir     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just on book finding: I found The Curse on abebooks for a dollar (plus 3.50 for s&h). Get thee a copy!

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