I am currently living in Lesotho as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I have only been here for two months thus far, and therefore am a fledgling; although, I have learned so much during these introductory months.
The other day in language class, we learned parts of the body. Being the curious person I am, I obviously asked to know how to say vagina. Much to my female teacher’s surprise (and I’d like to believe indirect freedom), she stuttered and struggled with how to respond. Instead of saying it aloud, she circumlocuted its pronunciation. I found this extremely perplexing.
When I said the word for vagina aloud, my teacher giggled and I could sense her yearning to live vicariously through my freedom and comfort in saying nyoana. But the lesson did not stop there, in fact, it is ongoing every day. We then proceeded to ask if there were any slang words for vagina—like in America we may say cooch, kooter, vag etc… And here’s where it gets interesting…one slang word for a woman’s vagina is Lesotho. The name of the country. Therefore it is so prized, precious and important that it bears the name of the country.
In my American mind, I want to gather a group of Basotho women and shout nyoana from the top of the mountains, but where does cross-cultural feminism belong? Is that really what is necessary or important? This is an omnipresent question I ask myself every day as I slip on my knee-length skirts day after day.
I am living in a country where a woman’s breasts are nothing interesting, enticing or sexual. I cannot tell you how many bare breasts I have seen in public at a shop, next to me in a taxi feeding a child or in my own village; yet anything below the waist must be concealed and not even uttered.
This is my monologue in homage to Basotho men and women…
I have always been curious as to how and why many men name their penises and in contrast, why women do not name their vaginas. I have since then pondered naming my vagina and what her name would be.
My vagina’s name is America.
My vagina’s name is America because I both love and hate what it is and what it stands for, but it is nonetheless a part of me…a significant, defining part of me. It is my birthplace, my pride and my curse. It is my freedom and enslavement. It has been raped of its innocence but reclaimed through its dignified freedom. So I will gladly say my vagina’s name is America. Perhaps your vagina’s name is Lesotho, Korea, India or Puerto Rico. It is life. The future.
This was just performed at HWS by my G-Fem, Gabrielle Perez. I could not be more honored or encouraged! Thanks HWS Women’s Collective–I love and miss you all dearly ❤