Religion Magazine

Vaginas and Penises and Ignorance Oh My

Posted on the 23 October 2012 by Eastofmidnight

My evangelical friends have been sending me links to articles regarding the brewing controversy about the soon-to-be-published book “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans. Modelled after A.J. Jacobs’ “A Year of Living Biblically”, Evans tries to follow the various directions that scripture [primarily Hebrew scripture] gives regarding how women should act.

As you can imagine, a lot of the directives in scripture regarding women deal with menstruation. Naturally, if one is going to talk about menstruation the word vagina is probably going to appear. Here’s where the controversy starts.

LifeWay Christian Booksellers, a conservative Christian bookstore chain, has announced that it will not carry Evans’ book. While they are keeping quiet about the reasons for not stocking it (which is news all on its own), there is reason to believe that the word vagina appearing in it might be at least part of the cause.

I was going to write about that, but the longer I’ve thought about, LifeWay not carrying the book is not really that much of an issue—at least not outside of evangelical circles. However, there is a related issue that I think has broader implications.

In a response to a question about LifeWay not carrying the book, Rachel Held Evans gives this little gem:

My publisher had warned me that if I left the word “vagina” in the book, it might not be carried by the Christian bookstore. 

This disturbs me; not the Christian bookstore deciding not to carry the book (that might be the subject of another post), but the publisher [Thomas Nelson, well known as a Christian publisher] saying that she needed to remove the word vagina in order to have that particular Christian bookstore sell the book.

What is it about the word “vagina” that makes it unacceptable yet in similar circumstances “penis” would be (and, in fact, is) perfectly acceptable?

The longer I’ve sat with this the more I see that there seems to be a longing to keep people ignorant about the basics of the female body. It’s as if not saying the word “vagina” means that we don’t have to deal with the issues that affect women on the social, economic and health levels.

Yes, I’m thinking about Todd Akin and all the other Dominionists out there. Who would have thought that in 2012 there would still be debate about contraception, Planned Parenthood and what the definition of “rape” is? (on the other hand, I can well see why there is debate on things like education and equal pay)

Ignorance leads us to places and people that we should avoid. And yet we seem to want to run full throttle into it. Why?

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