Monday, May 08, 2006
The Vagina Litmus Test
So a word I’ve been using a lot recently is “vagina.” I don’t remember exactly when I moved it up in the conversation playlist. I think I had it on shuffle for a while, and then at some point it got moved into permanent rotation. Another word I use all the time is “negro,” which, obviously, is probably more expected, by you, a reader of The Assimilated Negro.
Now while I don’t know exactly when I started using the word, I do know why I’ve continued to use it. It’s become what I think of now as “The Vagina Litmus Test.” Despite The Vagina Monologues having come out ten years ago, what I’ve discovered is that “vagina” is a word that still draws a reaction. One might even call it a “hot-button” word, if you will. When using the word vagina, particularly around women, some will cringe, some will slap you, some will just stop-and-pause, some will laugh, some will ask, “you have any crack?” Some won't bat an eyelash.
Now for me the word “vagina” is just a word. For me word choice always comes across as "a piece of the puzzle that is you." A person who uses the word “cooter” and a person who uses the word “vagina” are not the same person. I don’t want to rush to judgment about what kind of person uses each word, but again, it’s a piece of the puzzle. And when I'm acquiring puzzle pieces, there are four basic reactions I'm looking for:
The first reaction is the mortified/aghast/stupefied STOP. The person completely STOPS the conversation, looks at you in a manner that reflects the adjectives I used in the previous sentence, and usually engages in some sort of confrontation about usage of the word. I’d liken it to using the n-word around a militant black person. And the reaction can sometimes be physical, aka the stop-and-slap. These types of people, generally speaking, I will only be able to deal with in limited doses. I just don't have a lot of respect for getting fired up over someone's word choice. It's important, but you need more depth to work up a lather in my eyes. Now if I'm a known vagina-hacker, wanted in every state, that's clearly understandable cause for alarm. But, well, ... google me at your own peril.
The second reaction is the cringe-and-pass. This is a CRINGE that is just short of the full blown stop call, but the person gives you a PASS and doesn’t necessarily stop the conversation. They key here, however, is the cringe has enough flourish to indicate that the word should not be used again. This is the most common reaction. I generally respect any request to not hear the word, unless it strikes me as blatantly controlling/hypocritical. For example, I've had people tell expletive-laden stories and then ask me not to use that word. Bleh. I don't care about what inappropriate words you think are appropriate. And there's also the girl wearing the short-skirt and/or push-up bra, with her cleavage all splayed out, who hears the word and says, "ewwww." Bleh. If your titty-crack can be up in everyone's grill, I can definitely use whatever words I choose. For example, titty-crack.
The third reaction is a laugh. Self-explanatory. This is what you sort of expect if you're talking to artsy-types or hipsters. Also crackheads.
The fourth reaction is indifference. This one is the most disarming. Ultimately turning the whole litmus idea back the other way, because now you’re the one reacting and thinking, “what, she doesn’t respond to the word “vagina,” that’s crazy.” If there's no response, I proceed with extreme caution.
Of course a lot is dictated by the context and particular circumstances in which you use the word. There are too many variables to try and cover them all [now] but one scenario that always strikes me as an ideal opportunity for the vagina litmus test is when a girl is discussing some sexual scenario, and she has to indicate that area. She might point, or say, “down there” or use some slang term. That's when I like to interrupt and say, “oh, you mean your vagina …” and then proceed to the litmus reading. This is an ideal scenario primarily because she's opened the door on sexually oriented convo. So it's all the less reason to get in a fuss about word choice. In this case the reactions translate as such:
Stop/stop-and-slap – Stop is pretty much the same in all scenarios. But in this scenario, as she was discussing the subject, it comes off very poorly.
Cringe-and-pause – The key thing here is that she cringes, pauses, and then continues with the rest of her story. So you see she has to process it, but then she decides to not make a stink about it. There are also secondary metrics to evaluate i.e. the force of the cringe and the length of the pause.
The Laugh - The laugh is ideal in this scenario. In other scenarios the laugh might be a little "much," but here it's golden.
Indifference - indifference is always disarming, but a lack of response despite you interrupting raises a flag that is particularly red.
So there you go, get on out there and start saying "vagina” … with purpose.