The Problem with the P-Word

Well folks, that’s it. It’s all over—the election, the inauguration, the women’s march. Even the women’s march clean-up is over. The litter and glitter are gone, and the discarded banners and signs have found their home in the garbage (or, bizarrely, in museums). This week, trash trucks across America will be full of fifty shades of pink.

But one piece of post-march trash will linger on the streets for a long time to come: the p-word. If the p**syhat was the symbol of the march, the word ‘p**sy’ itself was the motto. It was the word of the weekend, alternately screamed and solemnly intoned by women coast to coast, painted on signs, printed on t-shirts, worn metaphorically atop thousands of heads. So like it or not, the word is officially here to stay.

And it’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Right? He started it! Right?

It’s been three-and-a-half months since that tape came out with that infamous phrase, “grab ‘em by the p**sy.” And apparently, it took three-and-a-half months for today’s enlightened, empowered modern women to decide that the best way to respond to vulgarity is with vulgarity on steroids.

There were signs saying “Power to the P**sy” and “This pu**y bites back.” The word was everywhere, alongside other language so crude it had to be blurred out when aired. Ashley Judd’s crotch-clutching during her speech at the Women’s March would have made Michael Jackson blush.

For the women chanting and plastering ‘pu**y’ all over the place, it was supposedly a way of ‘reclaiming’ the word, demonstrating their power over it. But nothing was reclaimed; instead, women were reduced. Instead of presenting themselves as smart, capable, whole human beings, these women reduced themselves to even less than their physical selves, down to one single part of their bodies. And ironically, in so proudly chanting its name, they demystified, desanctified, and depreciated themselves in the process.

Indeed, in their attempt to make ‘p**sy’ the cultural symbol of or linguistic synonym for ‘woman,’ a few women successfully diminished women everywhere, insulting not just females, but the very essence of femininity.

The purpose of the Women’s March was ostensibly female empowerment and equality: women wanted to be seen as more than a collection of vaginas. Why, then did they don enormous vagina masks and costumes and march down the street literally hidden underneath them? Whatever their objective, the actual consequence of this protest was to objectify women more explicitly than Donald Trump had ever done.

For a long time, feminists have preached that women should be immune from the predictable consequences of their behavior—that they should be allowed to binge drink in bars and yet still be shocked if they wake up in a strange man’s bed unsure of what happened, for example. The implication is that suggestions that women exercise common sense or take personal responsibility for their behavior is tantamount to sexism.

Now, evidently, women should be encouraged to parade around in vagina costumes waving ‘Pu**y Power’ flags and be shocked if it doesn’t make men everywhere respect them and the vagina even more.

After Trump’s tape surfaced, women were indignant primarily because he alluded to assault, but there was a quieter, secondary current of outrage because women, by and large, don’t especially like when men use the word ‘pu**y’ in such an offhand manner.

Now, thanks to Saturday’s women warriors, that word won’t be going away anytime soon. Women just became responsible for its normalization in the press and in our public vocabulary. Women just told men that it’s perfectly okay to use that word anytime and in the presence of anyone. Women just lost the right to be taken seriously if they ever chastise men for using it. Regardless of how feminists think the world should be, in the world as it is, women are not immune from the consequences of their behavior.

The women’s march, and the language it championed, made a mockery of women.

Imagine if a million men marched through the streets wearing enormous penis costumes, carrying signs that read “Power to the Penis” and wearing rooster hats. Women would never let them live it down—nor should we, for such crudity coarsens the culture irreparably. Let’s hope that men, whom feminists like to make out to be oppressive patriarchs, prove more forgiving.

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