Let’s play ‘thesaurus.’
Can you tell me a synonym for the word BODY? What comes to mind? Cross off any word that is a metaphor for a mechanical part (there goes frame, shaft, chassis), or that describes a body part or attribute (like torso, protoplasm, trunk, physique or figure), and you are left with a lot of words for dead people (corpse and—-*shudder* carcass).
So what about a living BODY? Nothing particularly useful or conversational is readily available, right?
In fact, there are VERY few words with which to examine our personal, unique sensations and feelings. And without these tools – these words – we cant initiate an exchange with one another, or even with ourselves.
It makes you wonder if your own experience of yourself has been limited to the words that you happen to have available! Besides those words that we aren’t “supposed” to use (vagina, vulva, breasts, etc.), what about the experiences and phenomena that we have no words for?
“Finding the right words, so that we can speak about these challenges openly, is the first step towards addressing them.” –– Jo McGowan, Hidden Behind Words
As feminists, we do a lot of reclaiming of language. Words like slut, clitoris, even the word feminism we feel a need to normalize. Our associations and connotations with these words change with the contexts of the times. We used to not be afraid of the word “Feminist” as a mainstream society. Now, we are still in the process of reclaiming it, because for so long it has been taboo to point out the differences and inequities between genders. But clearly, if we can’t find words for the feminine, sexual parts of women’s bodies that don’t have degrading connotations, we absolutely need feminism. And we absolutely need new words for “boobs”.
We are already so limited in our language that we have to talk about our bodies. I see this as a method or system of further control that the culture places on our expression of ourselves as women. Let us not further limit ourselves—let’s use the words we have. Let’s talk about our experiences with our bodies. Let’s listen to one another, and let’s find new words to share our experiences so that we can learn from each other.
Because without words, how else do you describe, explain, define and even begin to explore your own reality, your own truth, and your own intrinsic wisdom?
I’ve come to believe that Women’s experiences of who they are have been so uniquely undermined because of this ‘word void!’ We need new language to start new conversations and begin to build connections, relationships, and new realities for ourselves.