Mark of Eve

WomanWhen one is asked to think of a woman, what are the images that flit through the mind’s eye?

The mother, cradling a suckling infant in her arms?

Or is it the image of a dutiful wife, the super-mom and the docile home-maker?

A feminist riddled with what is termed as “penis-envy”?

Or is it a vampish “modern woman”?

Which of these stereotypes would you pick? Or perhaps (in all fairness) the image you may have favored could be entirely objective and not as clichéd as the ones listed above. However, I can safely state that not many individuals can directly associate “woman” with “vagina”. Females are often looked at as “lacking male genital apparatus”. It is certainly odd that women are viewed not as ‘possessing a vagina’, but instead seen as ‘lacking a penis’. The very use of the word ‘lacking’ places women at a position inferior to, and not as privileged as that of men.

I am certainly not trying to insinuate that there is nothing more to a woman apart from her vagina. Being a woman, I do know that there is more to me apart from my body. I would love to be appreciated as an intelligent, independent and caring woman. Without a vagina, I may have been all of these things, but I wouldn’t have been a woman. The vagina is central to femininity as it is the vagina that makes a woman.

If one thinks about it at length, one realizes what an amazing creation the vagina is. It is a gateway into the world. It is accommodating as it stretches to twice its size to deliver a new creature to the universe. A man experiences joy in the womb, and upon entering the world, spends his entire life in search of the same sense of peace, only to rediscover it in another woman’s body. A woman’s clitoris contains nearly a million nerve endings, and was created solely for the purpose of a woman’s sexual pleasure. No organ in a man’s body is reserved for carnal pleasure alone, so in a sense, women are truly blessed by nature. Rationally speaking, it is men, who should be suffering from “vagina-envy”. Sadly, patriarchy prevailed over rationality and common sense, and the wondrous vagina was reduced to nothing but “the absence of a penis”.

Throughout history, the vagina has been abused, misused, and condemned. It has been given horrible names and robbed of its identity. To associate an individual with a vagina is considered a terrible insult. Despite having an organ designed specifically for carnal pleasure, the joys of sexuality have been denied to many women. In certain parts of the world, this denial is subtle; for example, a man who has slept with numerous women is a “stud” in the eyes of society, whilst a woman who has been sexually active is routinely referred to as a slut. In other parts of the world, the denial of carnal pleasure to women is as blatantly obvious as amputating a woman’s clitoris (containing innumerable nerve endings) with a knife or a shard of glass. Men may argue that they too have to put up with the pain of a forced circumcision. However, studies show that the pain of female circumcision is incomparable, and a man would experience such dire pain only if more than half of his penis was to be amputated.

In my own life, I have seen that women who are aware of their body and enjoy sex and related activities are often ostracized and condemned. Yet, I have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with women who talk freely about sex. However, I have yet to come across a woman who is comfortable talking about her own body or female bodies in general. A stark contrast to men, who view their genitals to be a mark of their manhood. In many parts of the world, the onset of the menstrual cycle is marked with a period of deep mourning. The symbolic event during the course of which a girl becomes a woman is marred with grief rather than elation. I understand that menstrual cramps are nothing to be thankful for, but I do believe that women should appreciate the functioning of their own bodies; the way the womb prepares itself to nourish a new life, and the clockwork precision of the duration of this process, all of which happens without women having to actively engage themselves in the sequence. Why must women be embarrassed by the miraculous workings of their bodies?

Someone wise once said that “if men had periods, they would brag about the size of their tampons”. Even though the statement was made in jest, it has a large element of truth to it. Had men been blessed by the menstrual Gods, it would become an innate part of their proud masculinity; they would flaunt it in the same way that they flaunt the first few scant hairs on their upper lip. Then why must women buy tampons in secret? Why are women in rural regions made to suffer due to their bodily functions? Why do buxom girls walk around with their shoulders slouched? Why are women all over the world so hell bent on replacing their feminine curves with disturbingly androgynous, pencil straight bodies? Why are we so ashamed of our femininity? Why are we so apologetic about our vaginas?

Such is the sad state of the vagina.

I would like to make it clear that this article wasn’t written for the purpose of male bashing. And if I have inadvertently hurt any sentiments, it was certainly not what I had intended to do. I believe women and men are equally to blame for the sad state of affairs today. If women made an attempt to familiarize themselves with their own bodies, if they plucked up the courage to speak about female sexuality, if they learnt to question the largely self-imposed boundaries, slowly but surely, a change would follow.

Change is the need of the hour. Attitudes, including my own, must change. I now have two options, I can either send this article to my editor and delete all traces of its existence from my computer, or I can save it and share it with my mother and have an open, honest discussion with her for the very first time (however awkward it may initially seem). Though the first option is certainly tempting, I owe it to myself (my vagina, and all the other vagina’s in the world) to do the latter.

It’s a small step towards a better future.