Stop Putting My Vagina in a Binder!

Stop Putting My Vagina in a Binder!

Well I have to be honest with you all, unlike most of my fellow Nursing Clio authors, Carrie, Adam, and Ashley, I did not finish Vagina: A Biography.  Each and every time I opened the book, with the full intention of reading a chapter, two to three pages in, I dozed off.  I did manage, finally, to get through some of the chapters and in the end, I found myself not really caring about the vagina as a goddess.  I had one thing in mind when I first started this piece, where I was going to discuss what sort of vagina my vagina wanted to be and then Tuesday night’s debate aired.  Well wouldn’t you know it, Romney made the brilliant “binders full of women,” comment (it is has to be up their with “I like trees,” but maybe not), and it made me think about how it connects to Wolf’s book.  Throughout history the vagina has been put into neat little categories, binders if you will, that have been used to define, stigmatize, and even defile women.  Our vaginas have defined us as sex objects, mothers, weaker employees, and victims, while at the same time branded us emotional, irrational, and fragile.  So how does this relate to Wolf, you ask?  It’s simple, Wolf wants to place the vagina into another binder labeled “Vagina as Goddess,” and it is another category that in the end, will bite women in the ass.  The vagina is NOT a goddess and therefore we are NOT goddesses.

I am sure this is going to offend some people, but when you define the vagina as a goddess and therefore imply that women are goddesses, it places us, yet again, on a pedestal, where those beneath need to worship something that is a myth.  History can offer us examples of what happens when we place (white) women and their perfect (white) vaginas on a pedestal.  Romney’s “binders full of women,” gives us a glimpse into that history because it reveals how this one part of the female body has been placed on a throne of sorts, marginalizing women and men who could not, and would not bow to its glory.  For some of those individuals, there were horrible and lasting consequences.

For black slave women, their vaginas defined them as easy sexual prey because white men owned their vaginas.


J. Stedman, Narrative of a five years’ expedi. (Wikimedia)

Additionally, slave women’s vaginas used by Marion Sims (the father of gynecology), were only considered medical experiments, which were prodded, cut, and sewn without the benefit of anesthetic.


Henry Savage, The surgery, surgical pathology. (Wikimedia)

For black men, the accusation of disrespecting a white lady and her white vagina (that coincidently had been put on a pedestal), lead to unimaginable violence.


For advertisers, women’s vaginas needed constant attention, because a smelly vagina reflected an ignorant woman.

Lysol Ad. (Flickr)

For gay men, in a world where men only liked vaginas, the closet was the only “safe” place.


Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum KIENHOLZ THE BEANERY. (Flickr)

You could also say the same of lesbians, whose vaginas were only supposed to like penises.

Blurry photo of two women kissing. (oakenroad/Flickr)

As Carrie wrote on Monday, had Wolf’s book been an autobiography of sorts, we might have been cool with the fact that Wolf found herself through her vagina, or something in that regard.  But, the norm that the vagina defines a woman’s identity has been around for far too long.  It is has been used, and is still used, to subjugate women into binders labeled sex, motherhood, heterosexual, and even victim.  It has also created binders for men, with titles that speak to their inability to control their penises around women’s vaginas, while at the same time, that’s all they are supposed to desire. Now, we have the “vagina as goddess” binder with a picture of Venus in all her full glory.  The problem is, it is just another binder, another identity, that does nothing to describe real women or real men.

I don’t want my vagina in that binder.  I do not want it in any binder.  My vagina does not define who I am.  I define who I am.  Period.

Featured image caption: Lysol Mar 1918 Commercials. (clotho98/Flickr)

Cheryl Lemus earned her PhD from Northern Illinois University in 2011. Her dissertation, “‘The Maternity Racket’: Medicine, Consumerism, and the American Modern Pregnancy, 1876-1960,” examines the rise of the modern pregnancy in 20th-century America. She is mainly interested in gender and women’s history, the history of medicine in America, and the rise of consumer culture.