Letting Our Lips Flap - Vulva Lips That Is

This post is going to be a bit more straight up feminism and a little less on the topic of female sexuality or sexual functioning. Yes, my friends, this post will be about language - and specifically the all too common practice of casually casting femininity as weak, wimpy, silly and inferior. Pussy...scream like a girl..."girly" girl...don't be such a girl...you forgot your tampon/purse/etc....Don't be such a bitch, just do it you wuss....

Before you roll your eyes and tell me to stop getting so worked up - that it's just a phrase, that you didn't mean it that way, that people don't actually think of it that way, that you meant it as pussy cat, or that you're using it ironically/as a joke/with a different context; let me just say - bullshit. I'm gonna get worked up. It's not just a phrase, and although you fully understand that all females aren't wimps, your words just said they were, and your words affect those who hear them - and I don't think I'm being too sensitive.

As opposed to being too sensitive to this issue I think the real problem is that people are too dismissive of these subtle, impactful, and marginalizing aspects of our language and media. I think this issue deserves much more attention and respect as a feminist issue. However, I also think we should acknowledge the nuance of this issue, because people (and it is absolutely males and females who speak this way) don't usually feel as though women are, across the board, wimpy, weak, silly or inferior. They are not (usually) misogynist assholes. They are, well, they are pretty much everyone. So, although I take this issue seriously, I don't take actual comments too seriously if that makes any sense. People's intentions with these phrases are often different from the comment's impact.

I see this problem as a pervasive cultural issue rather than a personal one, but I feel the solution involves calling attention to comments on an individual basis. I think people are just not aware that these little comments, the ones everyone says, the ones that feel innocent and jokey - that when we hear them all the time that they become part of our self-understanding. I mean we ladies are bombarded our whole life with little comments like this. Even as we are told that we can do and be anything, the subtext is a little more confusing. We kind of get the idea that of course we can be great...if we don't act female. Problem is we are female. We might feel we can do and be anything but somehow we also get the feeling we acquired those qualities of strength and risk-taking and assertiveness despite our femininity - that we rose to masculinity instead of feeling that feminine qualities themselves are capable of such things. It's a little self hating don't you think?

These "jokey" phrases through our whole life work to restrict the expectations we have of ourselves and others and divides them clearly by gender. We take words to heart. I think more than we realize, we are what people tell us we are and expect us to be. We should never take our words lightly – especially the words we say to our young people. Just start paying attention. I promise, once you start listening for these comments in movies, TV, books, cartoons, your friends and family, you'll be amazed at how ubiquitous they are.

Let me finish by saying this. When you mean to say that someone is being a wuss, don’t call them female genitals. Okay, you may say, “Trisha, I use the word pussy sometimes, but I don’t really think of it in a feminine vs. masculine way. Plus, if you really think about it, a pussy is actually a soft and gentle kind of thing. It does make a little sense to use it in that way.” K. So it makes sense that an area capable of considerable flexibility, one that get’s torn in childbirth, poked, bleeds for 7 days and still doesn't die (as the joke goes), and still comes out fine – so that is what we use as an alternative word for wimp. However, a wrinkly hanging double sack that is notoriously sensitive – a flick to them could bring down the toughest of men – this is what we associate with strength and courage. You “have balls” so you’re a steely, tough, crusader but you “show your pussy” and you might as well curl up into the fetal position and cry. Don’t tell me that these phrases are innocent. They have everything to do with our associations between gender and capability.

How about instead of complimenting a person by saying they "have balls," we say a person has "let their lips flap" - as if they have majestic, impressive vulva lips which they let them out to wave in the wind like a majestic flag of strength and courage - a big fuck you to anyone who dares go against her - or him. (Yes, men too. If we can say women have balls, we can say men are letting their lips flap). Come on try it out next time. It'll be fun.

So, here's the bottom line. When I hear you, my dear sweet friends, use a word or phrase that brings to mind femininity, and it is obvious you could have used a word or phrase that means weak, wimpy, silly or inferior in its place without changing your meaning - then I will call you out for that every time. That is a promise, and I have the lips to do it.


  1. Guilty as charged, your honor. When I used the phrase "Your pussy is showing," I employed popular, anti-feminist rhetoric to disparage the actions of the supposedly ultra-PC execs at my beloved NPR. The irony was not-so-obvious but entirely intentional, I assure you. You'd be forgiven for not laughing though.. To call that dry humor would be a colossal understatement.

    But I do agree that such subtle irony is probably lost on a broader audience. To assume that everyone 'gets' that joke is borderline careless, so I'll keep that in mind going forward.

    Keep on rockin out with your labe out. Love you guys! =D

  2. Our discussion helped me get a clear idea of how I wanted to talk about the issue, and once I get an idea I have to blog about it - cause it ain't easy coming up with something to blog about every week. You are an awesome sport. You are not by far the only person I've "discussed" this with, but you were the one that got me thinking better about it. You are also a fantastic feminist despite a few vocabularial infractions. I will keep rocking out with my labe out as log as you keep rockin out with your you know what out. ;)