Not Vagina. To those who say but you must teach girls the correct word, I say that word isn't correct... on its own. If you say vagina then you must also say vulva and clitoris and urethra and really? Teach a child on the potty to "wipe your urethra"? There is a place for medical and specific; those are good words to have and yes, my girls do know them or are learning them. But clinical is not all I want for this relationship.
Not cutesy words. Coochie or Pee-Pee or whatever. As with her own name, a girl needs a name she can grow into. Become a woman with.
Not Privates. It deserves a name of its own, not a word describing how no one else is allowed to see it. Privates is not a name; it is a fear. It is like putting a bikini top on a toddler at the pool--the elastic creeping up under her armpits with nothing to cover up and nothing to keep it in place, unable to play properly, always having to adjust. Privates is about other people, not about herself.
And while we're on that track, also not Between the Legs. This isn't Voldemort we're talking about here, not It That Shall Not Be Named. I mean, really.
So what name, then? What do we call it?
When I was pregnant with my first girl, I looked out at this landscape of genital naming and sighed. And then remembered hearing somewhere, I don't even remember when, Yoni.
And just as with choosing the baby's name, I knew this name fit. It felt right.
Yoni may sound cutesy at first, but there is nothing embarrassed or throw-away about it.
Yoni is affectionate, cherished, sweet, unified, beloved, venerated. Sacred.
Yoni is Sanskrit for female genitals and womb. It also translates as origin, source. Yoni is the symbol of Shakti: the goddess, the divine feminine creative power of the universe.
But Yoni doesn't have to be overly precious. At our house, Yoni isn't heard much over candle light and chanting. More often it is called over my shoulder from deep in the linen closet searching for a towel to clean up the bathwater flood, "Put the rubber duckies away now. And don't forget to wash your yoni!"
Yoni is a doorway to a different conversation with my girls. It is the foundation of what I can teach them about having a loving relationship with that most amazing, confusing part of their bodies.
If my daughters never use the word Yoni past childhood, I'm fine with that - it is enough. If they only for the rest of their lives use it with their sister and me, that is enough. And if they do someday use it when talking to their friends or partner, that is enough, too. For just as with what they eventually do with their yonis as adults, what they call their yonis as adults is none of my business and there is no way they can disappoint me. But what they think of their yonis now, as children... well, that IS my business. As their mother, it might just be the single most important business I have.
We didn't invent Yoni, but it is ours.
This post is the first installment in a series called Mother of Daughters, about raising
body-positive, sex-positive, confident, competent girls.
I was going to call it Mother of Dragons but evidently that was already taken.