Her Bad Mother

Friday, October 26, 2007

V Is For Vulva (That's Good Enough For Me)

I've always cringed at references to women's parts that invoke floral imagery. 'The soft petals of her womanhood,' 'she opened to him like a flower' - ew, ew, ew and ick. They're lazy, these tired botanical tropes, these limp figures of speech that call upon a weak association between the softer, gentler, prettier elements of nature and womanhood. They're lazy, because they derive whatever resonance they carry from our deeply ingrained assumptions about the delicacy of women and the fragile passivity of their sexuality. Feminine sexuality, when compared to flowers, is characterized as a thing of beauty that stands nobly and quietly while the more aggressive forces of nature penetrate and draw upon their sweet liquids, the better to expand nature's bounty. It paints woman as passive participant in the sexual act, where that participation amounts only to accepting the invasive ingression upon her core. It's stupid, in my books.

So it is that it has always been my intention - regardless of the difficulties I might face in forcing myself to use the correct terms, with a straight and unflushed face - to avoid euphemism in discussions of body parts with my child. And in particular, to avoid cheesy or lazy or icky euphemisms. Like "flower."

What, then, am I supposed to do when Baby Einstein starts putting Freudian interpretations of Georgia O'Keeffe in their toddler board books? How does one avoid vulva-flower associations when one stares you in face at storytime?

Whassat Mommy?

It's a flower, sweetie.

Whassat say Mommy?

It says "hot," sweetie.

Why flower hot, Mommy?


Georgia O'Keeffe, of course, rejected Freudian readings of her work, even when it was her own husband promoting such readings. So I'm guessing that a layout of her work that sets Red Canna alongside some kind of abbreviated erotic haiku would have bugged her more than it bugs me. But then again, she wouldn't have been confronting said layout during storytime with her toddler.

Some day, of course, I look forward to thumbing through art books and visiting galleries with Wonderbaby and talking about all the wonderfully different ways one can read art. I just hadn't expected to be confronted with a graduate-level case study before she turned two. Well, sweetie, Steiglitz and others saw in O'Keeffe's work an erotic study of the vulva - that's the outer part of your sexual organs, honeybear - but O'Keeffe insisted that a flower was a flower was a flower, implying that female sexuality was more robust than any flower. Then, what? I bust out my best Muppet imitation and we sing "V is for vulva, that's good enough for me? Oh, vulva, vulva, vulva starts with V!"? It just doesn't feel quite right to be jumping into the finer points of eros vs. thanatos in art and analysis of artistic and literary interpretations of female sexuality before the child has mastered the potty.

Or is this what they call a teaching moment, and I'm just not seeing the pedagogical garden for the vulvic lilies?


Today's the last day to post your kids' artwork for the Wonderbaby Artstravaganza Crayola Giveaway. Freudian or Post-Freudian interpretations of said art optional. Wonderbaby will draw a winner tomorrow (so get your link to me sometime before dawn tomorrow, EST), and we'll announce Sunday.


More evidence than my mind is in the gutter (better than head in the toilet: we're nearly twelve hours clear on that count, touch wood), as if you needed it: pondering Beckham's putative manliness (and inarguably stellar - if awkwardly displayed - butt cheeks); wondering what got into Heidi Klum that she had to discuss her husband's dick size on Oprah; wondering why Sarah Jessica Parker's spectacular boobs couldn't keep her off Maxim's evil unsexy list.


Blogger kristen spina said...

Oh for god's sake! Is that book for real? It's so... Hmmm... I don't know... Just turn the page!

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


That's kah-ray-zeee talk.

2:21 PM  
Blogger Jenifer said...

Baby Einstein?! That is such an odd choice of photo and accompanying text. Harlequin has nothing on those guys.

Not that I am great at using the proper parts all the time. Let me try the chorus, V is for....

2:28 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

It's a real book, alright. Baby Einstein's "Windows On Color." You think I make this shit up? I'm not that imaginative.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Niksmom said...

Oh.My. I'm having hot flashes... ROFLMAO. What do you expect when WB has her very own phallus already? Hmmmm? ;-)

2:35 PM  
Blogger Phoenix said...

Maybe you should stick to the Hungary Catapiller and Good Night Moon for a while? :)

Glad that you're feeling better. I hope it sticks.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Girlplustwo said...

it's all complicated isn't it, and yet think of the freedom - to teach in a variety of ways, to foster their own growth, to allow all these wee girls and boys to overcome the societal tides.

and we get to do this.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm, turn the page and don't make a mountain out of a mole hill? Although I'm guessing the prospects of engaging Wonderbaby in a graduate-level case study is actually quite exciting. Not everything has huge catastrophic implications that must be analyzed, discussed and debated till death- some things just are what they are.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

One does not - I repeat, does NOT - turn the page unless Wonderbaby says so. The only option is to hide the book and accept my prudery.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Note to self: Do not buy that book until ready to sit Chicky down and have "the talk". Right. Gotcha.

3:06 PM  
Blogger flutter said...


3:13 PM  
Blogger Bea said...


I had exactly this experience at Chapters a couple of weeks ago. Bub was leafing through that book, pointing at words and asking what they were, and I practically choked on my latte.

(And I did say to myself, "There's a blog post in here somewhere...")

3:13 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

I have to comment again to say that "abbreviated erotic haiku" is so brilliantly perfect a description.

3:15 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

There is this, which I can also see as an argument and maybe what they were thinking: Red Canna, aside from that obvious interpretation, also has a very fiery look to it. It has hot colours, and what look not unlike leaping flames. Perhaps they were talking about the colours, which are, indeed, hot, rich, and exciting. You could work that angle with WonderBaby. But geez, did no one take a second look at that thing before printing?!

3:44 PM  
Blogger b*babbler said...

I'm convinced that books like that and other such moments (often brought to you in the middle of children's show - see a particularly memorable episode of Boohbah involving Grandma and Grandpapa and a giant hot dog - ahem) are there solely to bring a little light (or discomfort) into the day for us parents. You can almost see the editors/directors/creators snickering as they put the book or show to print. "Bwhahaha - wonder how they'll explain this one... BWHAHHAHA"

4:13 PM  
Blogger OhTheJoys said...

I am so disappointed. I was TOTALLY assuming you were going to offer some HARD WORKING, TOUGH, MUSCLE words for the Vulva. You know, the forklift of my... well that one's no good, obviously, but I was RELYING on you!!!

4:16 PM  
Blogger motherbumper said...

You must be getting close to the frisky stage of pregnancy - all this vulva and dick size talk. Holy moly, this is exactly why we don't have any baby Einstein around (that and we don't want Bumper to outsmart us).

4:22 PM  
Blogger Lotus (Sarcastic Mom) said...

God, I can't get the mental of Cookie Monster eating a poon out of my head now.

*slaps hand over eyes and forehead*

5:05 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

That HAS to be some intern's idea of a joke. Some art major trapped at the Baby Einstein factory working for $5 an hour. HAS to be.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Badness Jones said...

Oh my. We try to use the proper words for everybody's parts too...my dad got an earful the day a 2-1/2 year old princess bust out "Look Grandpa! Sally's licking her anus!" (our dog, Sally's our dog!) He went so red I thought he might die and I went upstairs and laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. You either face these things head on or you don't. Good luck :)

8:17 PM  
Blogger Julie Marsh said...

Oh my.

That picture. It's...well...

I need to excuse myself.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Dig it Forward said...

OK, I'm naive enough to have missed that altogether and have gone with the colours, except what's with the heart? Someone at Baby Einstein knew what they were up to. Pffft- hilarious!

8:58 PM  
Blogger iheartchocolate said...

am I missing something? Is that a real freakin book? OMG.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you ever see the episode of Sex and the City where an artist Charlotte admires paints her portrait? "I bet you have a lovely cunt, dear..." his wife said. Looked just like that.

I'll never look at Cookie Monster the same, either.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

Okay, so that Chapters/latte anecdote was a completely false memory. I was telling my BFF about your post just now and she interrupted to say, "We have that book! I showed it to you!" Somehow I'd forgotten that part. AND - she thought the 69 on the firetruck (?) was a bit suspicious too, in light of the "red" page.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

That's just wrong. Wrong, I tell you!

10:59 PM  
Blogger Kyla said...

It HAD to be purposeful. A book is seen by too many eyes for them all to be that daft. But it is quite the hilarious shock!

Uhhh, maybe you should spill something on that page so it "accidentally" sticks to the one next to it? No more need for discussion! LOL.

11:15 PM  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

Heh. Well, the book isn't wrong, is it?

11:40 PM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

we too use the right words for body parts. I knew a girl who called her vagina "Thing" Umm... isn't that WAY too vague?

12:09 AM  
Blogger painted maypole said...

we too use the right words for body parts. I knew a girl who called her vagina "Thing" Umm... isn't that WAY too vague?

12:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the 'v is for vulva' story is too perfect, but the real thing i hace to say is: oh hell no, maxim!
rude, rude, and rude.

i think i'm going to have to address this on my blog. but don't gp clicking over to see what i have to say.

everytime i read something and then think i have to write about it...well, there's usually a two or three week gap before i actually get around to it.

i suck.

but i don't suck as bad as maxim.

2:48 AM  
Blogger Bon said...

my stars and whiskers...those racy baby Einstein folk. next thing you know you'll be coming across images of the CN tower with words like "his throbbing manhood" juxtaposed next to them...

smut! i call smut!

(that was fun)

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried with the
real names..but gave up
too much laughter

caity named it her lava

pretty hot really!!!

11:49 AM  
Blogger crazymumma said...

at first I thought the words beside the image were placed there by you as a joke. The fact tehat they were not makes it even more funny.

You made me think of the chilly fall morning years ago when bigirl asked LOUDLY enough for many to hear on the way to a preschool if "ONE DAY WILL I HAVE HAIR ON MY VULVA JUST LIKE YOU MUMMY??????"

1:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have that book and I have never even noticed that. How pathetic and boring am I? ;-)

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You had me at "v".

3:52 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

That is a riot.

9:00 PM  
Blogger Candace April said...

As a former art history teacher, I would suggest talking about "hot" red colors, "rich" jewel tones, and the "exciting" use of lines.

But, yeah, a little bit of a surprise. And an astute little toddler with a good question...

9:14 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

'Rich' jewel tones - aren't 'jewels' also euphemisms for genitalia?

GAWD my mind is dirty.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Candace April said...

Sure, but the other kind...

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sigh. I do not heart Baby Einstein. At. All.


12:45 AM  

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