So often, on a corner of the internet somewhere, a MtF who wants to share in female oppression complains that women should not be “defined by their vaginas.” They lament that women speak as though we are one big giant walking vagina and that we could and should just quit thinking about our oh so unimportant nether regions.
The mistake that men, and thus “trans women,” make, is assuming that having a vagina is analogous to having a dick.
Having a dick is no big deal. Sometimes you stick it in something and it feels good, and that’s the end of the significance of having a dick. Having a dick is like having an elbow. To men, it doesn’t make any more sense to be defined by your dick than it does to be defined by your elbow.
The ability to see your sexual organ as a mere body part is a male privilege. Men are uniquely able to disassociate from their sex organs, their sex, and reproduction. Men are uniquely able to see sex organs as unrelated to social standing, their safety or even their likelihood of raising a child. The fact that men can’t tell that having a vagina is not analagous to having a dick shows a tremendous lack of imagination — in other words, people who don’t have vaginas don’t know what it’s like to have them. Imagine that. It’s almost as if men aren’t good representatives for what being a woman is all about.
Males are able to imagine, and do imagine, that penises and vaginas are both things you might perform sex on or with and little more. The fact that any male considers a “neovagina” to be even remotely similar to a vagina attests to that fact. The neovagina is nothing more than a sheath for a penis, and only a male person with male privilege thinks of a vagina as largely a dick holder.
It’s probably pretty hard for a male to imagine living with the responsibility of having a vagina. With the knowledge that if you’re not ever-vigiliant, 24/7 for the thirty years in which you are fertile, an entire human being might come out of your body and demand every resource you have or can acquire for the next twenty plus years. Yes, even infertile women, who generally don’t know they’re infertile until they try to have children. And yes, even sexually inactive women and lesbians, because rape exists and is common.
While men are failing to get their socks into the laundry hamper every week, most heterosexual women are remembering to take a pill on time every single day with life or death consequences if they fail. While men are skipping their physical for the third year in a row, women are scheduling and making it to the doctor’s visits that make acquiring that birth control possible. To say nothing of the tremendous responsibility a woman faces if she does conceive, carry, bear and raise a child.
Our vaginas bathe us in blood a quarter of the time, requiring our attention every hour, demanding of us care and laundry chores and expense of which males cannot dream. For many of us, endometriosis and fibroids and hemorrhaging and miscarriages and abortions and ablations and D&Cs and PCOS and UTIs and vulvodynia and vagismus and yeast infections and menopause are a concern.
What concerns do male reproductive organs bring? Cancer, which also happens to female reproductive organs, and everyone’s non-reproductive organs.
And because rape exists and is common, and largely happens to women, and has far greater consequences for female victims than for male victims, our vaginas limit our movement through the world. There are places and situations and hours of the evening in which we simply don’t go, or we watch our back and don’t have any fun when we do go, because those places and situations and hours of the evening are full of people who want to hurt us. They want to hurt us because we have vaginas. If they wanted to hurt us because we wear lipstick, then believe me, we’d sometimes wipe the lipstick off and get out there and enjoy all the sights and sounds that the world has to offer, any time of day or night. It’s easy for someone — a male — to imagine that oppression is about wearing lipstick, because wearing lipstick is the only part of “being a woman” he has experience with. And males hate to feel left out.
And then there’s all that other stuff. The being told we’re stupid and bad at math. The war against our health needs. The pathologizing of our personalities. The unequal pay and impaired access to certain clubs and careers and political positions. Our absence as characters in books and movies. The denial of ourselves as fully human.
The denial of our sexuality except in relation to whether it benefits men. The rigged system that punishes us no matter how we use our vaginas sexually, whether a little (prude), a lot (slut), or never (spinster). The ubiquitous and enthusiastic portrayal of our abuse, and the sexualization of it, in advertisements, in television shows, in porn. These are things that happen to people with vaginas. When we try to forget about them, someone reminds us that they make us vulnerable, that they make us lesser, that they make us unclean, that they make us stupid.
Oppression isn’t tied to male bodies. Oppression is tied to female bodies. It’s no wonder that males who can opt in or out of oppression don’t understand what it’s like to live in an oppressed body.
Even if we could quit thinking about our vaginas, other people, especially men, would continue to remind us, with every move we make, that we have them.
For men, the significance of a vagina lies in its use for fucking. For women, its role in fucking is the least of its significance.