Since first hearing Janelle Monae’s new song “Pynk,” I have been listening to it over and over and over again, equal parts mesmerized by the beautiful choreography and the billowing vulva pants in the music video.
Despite how much work I have done in celebrating and reclaiming my body and sexuality from trauma, purity culture, and sexism, this year I have been reminded that that reclamation isn’t a static process. I don’t reach a point of loving myself and suddenly no longer struggle with the old messages and wounds of the past.
Old scripts of shame can come creeping back in, often in new disguises so that I don’t immediately recognize them for what they are.
Over the past year, I watched as the March for Women, which had seemed like such a unifying experience last year, devolved into in-fighting, with women taking offense at pink pussy hats for various reasons.
What probably could have been a mindful conversation about the different ways that women experience body-shame within our culture instead became more about whether or not women should identify with pink (because not all vulvas are pink…and really no vulvas are the pink of the pussy hats) or with having a pussy (because not all women have pussies).
While both critiques have truth, I also couldn’t help but feel the ache in my soul of needing to have a way to talk about the experience of having a vagina.
The experience of having a vagina in a world that glosses over vaginal pleasure and orgasm.
The experience of having a vagina in a world where someone decided that my vagina belonged to them and not me and abused and violated the boundaries of my body when I was a child.
The experience of having a vagina that sometimes I don’t even want to own because along with all the wonderful things my vagina is, there’s also the reality that it houses and stores memories, sensations, and emotions that terrify and paralyze me. It is a source of nightmares as well as ecstasy.
The experience of having a vagina in a world where a President can brag about grabbing a vagina without repercussions but someone who has a vagina can get banned from a discussion involving vaginas because she alluded to that body part.
Yes, we need to leave room for talking about the experience of being a woman without a vagina or being a woman with a vulva that doesn’t conform to societal standards, just as we need to leave room for talking about the experience of being a woman in many other contexts as well (size, shape, age, race, reproductive choices/options, and career).
But as I watched the conflict from the sidelines, I felt the tug back to a point I never wanted to return to and though I had left far behind–a point of feeling like it was wrong to talk about my vagina and about how having my vagina influences my world. There was a shame and silencing to the conflict that felt anything other than feminist to me.
Enter Janelle Monae, who is somehow able to create this beautiful anthem that both acknowledges women who have vaginas and those who don’t and celebrates the fact that pink is part of everyone’s bodies, be it their eyelid, tongue, vulva or heart. I love this song because it honors diversity while also reconnecting me with the beauty and power of my pussy and chasing away that shame script that had been trying to infiltrate yet again.