Sunday, November 1, 2009

The shame of the rose

If I was a misery memoir or a chick-lit tragedy book I'd be called 'The Midwives Daughter'. For that's what I am, the daughter of a midwife. In fact I am also the great-granddaughter of a midwife as my great-grandmother in Wales was a lay midwife, delivering all the village babies.

So it's no surprise really that I know an awful lot about women's bits. There's never been any pussy-footing (cough) about lady parts in our family. No, it's always been vulva this, vagina that and labias have forever been majora or minora. I was the only girl at school to have a letter from my mother saying that I couldn't do PE as I had dysmenhorrea (period pains). I'm sure the PE teacher had no idea what was wrong with me but let me sit on the side lines lest my womb (that should of course be uterus) fell out on the lacrosse pitch.

I was also the girl who's mother bought her a copy of Sheila Kitzinger's book,'Woman's Experience of Sex', when she visited Mrs Kitzinger's home for a conference ( which incidentally took place on Sheila's capacious bed among her many uterus/womb shaped artefacts). Not just any copy too but a signed copy dedicated to me by name! The book was full of black and white photos of ladies who looked as if they'd taken a quick break from duties at Greenham Common to inspect their genitals with a mirror or pleasure themselves while sporting a macrame jumper and lush matching pubes. It was enough to put you off sex for life to be honest!

Fast forward twenty five or so years and I am sitting in my mother's living room wearing a recent purchase: a rather boho tunic top with a big print of a rose on the front in purples and pinks. 'Funny top' opines my Dad casually as he passes me. I take no notice, he wears Hawaiian shirts with check shorts, who is he to talk? Then my Mum looks at me quizzically and tells me that the rose on my top looks like - well - a vulva! I cannot gainsay her as she has seen many a lady garden in her former professional capacity and therefore knows one when she sees one.

My sister now looks at my top and decides that there is a certain fanny-ish look about the rose. It's then that my inner Sheila Kitzinger rises up. Why should women not be able to wear tops with fannies on them? Are not ladies' bits things of beauty and potency? No, I shall wear my rose/vulva top with pride? I shall wear it and shout 'vaginas' from the rooftops for anyone and everyone to hear. Anyone who thinks it's a fanny is just weird - or a midwife.

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