Euphemisms for the word vagina range from the coy “lady part” to the embarrassed “down there”.
For 16-year-old Yashna Arora, the word was “chee”, an expression of disgust used in Hindi. In her slam poem, she pushes for the need to call the female anatomy by its rightful name.
“I fail to understand why my vagina has to be a metaphor, a synecdoche, a noun, an adjective, a euphemism, an interjection or a pronoun.
And not just a body part, my body part?”
The Vagina Poem, an offering from Delhi Slam Poetry, highlights the confusion most women may have faced in replacing the term vagina with more colloquial versions, such as “pussy”. Arora tries to work out what a pussycat may have to do with her body part.
One doesn’t need to go down the catalogue of words related to profanity in India and abroad – their very existence (and everyday use) shows that that “vagina” is not understood as a biological term but often perceived as obscene in the light of sexual connotations.
Arora’s spoken word verses on the shaming of the vagina is one of the many commentaries on the subject in performing arts.
Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is one of the popular plays which “celebrated the vagina,” and explored subjects such as menstruation, giving birth, love, sex, orgasms and violence against women. The play inspired a South Asian version in the US titled Yoni Ki Baat in 2003.
The same year, Ensler’s play was adapted in India with the same title and has been popular in performance across Indian cities. Still, director Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal says that the play has nevertheless faced rejections and even been mistaken for a raunchy sex comedy.