I’m not easily offended. In fact, I’m a girl who started a blog called FitnessWhore, in an attempt to turn the word “whore” into a positive thing, hoping to transform it’s meaning from loose woman to lover of life and fitness. I became a real life adult just as trashy reality television, and selfie filled social media, and the big giant over share of the internet were evolving into what they are now and therefore changing the way we look at ourselves and others. My cultural perspective is a product of multiple public make out sessions a la The Bachelor and word remixes a la “Bootylicious” that have accompanied the uncensored digital age. And I’m no prude. I was posing for boudoir pictures before it was cool, because to me, the body is art.
But this tank top, of a woman’s pubic bone and vagina that I purchased from Walmart in the Junior’s section, really bothered me at first. And it’s not just because I’m a mother now. It bothered me because it sends the message to young woman that this, this bone and this body region, are what matter. Encasing said anatomy in a heart says, “love my vagina.” Not my brain. Not my personality. Not even my athletic prowess. My vagina. This tank top bothered me because I know it wasn’t meant to inspire young women to respect and honor themselves, especially when the shirt is a few strings in the back and low cut enough to reveal some serious side boob. Nor was it meant to inspire the teenagers of today to become gynecologists, doulas, and midwives – the ONLY reason I could find acceptable for wearing this shirt, akin to a foot doctor personalizing his license plate with “I Luv Toes.” In fact, I’m pretty sure, as one of my designer friends pointed out, that this was produced haphazardly in response to the whole skeletons on clothing trend that’s become so popular. While pictures of skeletons and skulls on sweatshirts and luggage have become a symbol of punk rock fashion, who is a bag of vagina bones meant to resonate with?
Had I come across this image when I was struggling to conceive my daughter, I probably would have first screamed into my armpit right there in the Walmart clothing aisle, and then taken it home to douse it in lighter fluid and burn it in the BBQ along with my recent negative pregnancy tests while crying to my husband about how totally unfair it was that my own pubic anatomy was so fucked. And at first, I thought about emailing Walmart that they should be ashamed of themselves, peddling pictures of vaginas to teenage girls like this. After all, you don’t see penis t-shirts making the rounds in the men’s section. Teenage girls have it bad enough with role models like Kylie Jenner inspiring shot glass facial abuse.
But then I decided that I do love my vagina, my pubic symphysis, and my illiac crest despite all of the pain that it has caused me. I do love that I was strong enough to withstand month after month of horrific, mind numbing endometriosis pain all because of the region of my body featured in this picture, even though there were times I literally thought it, all that lived within this bone structure, would kill me. I do love that this area makes me a woman, a woman who after decades of doctors appointments, then two years of trying and tests, weird supplements, a surgery, and an IUI, was finally able to conceive my baby girl there, right there in the picture. And even though I DO NOT love, how what you see featured made me a victim of child abuse, simply because of it, my pubic symphsis, that I was viewed as and used as an object for sexual gratification instead of cherished as human being, a little girl to be loved and respected, I still think this tank top pictures something amazingly beautiful if you have the perspective I do at almost 35.
I don’t know many 14-year old girls, so I’m not sure that they’d actually even wear this. And if they’d even know what they’re wearing. And if they do know, what their reasons would be for wearing a fluorescent yellow tank top with pubic bones on it could possibly be. I can only imagine that, if they knew, they’d wear this because it might bother someone and that’s what’s cool when you’re 14, or that it might communicate a aura of sexual experience that I truly hope they do not have. And that part of this shirt and the messages it sends still bothers me. A lot.
But I know why I’ll wear it, if I do, it will be because so far, I have survived being a woman. I have survived despite the wider distance between my ischium bones.
Despite the fact that they make a t-shirt like this for teenage girls at all.
When I’ve asked family and friends what they see, they’ve said “alien,” “trees,” and an “ink blot.” Maybe this picture was actually meant to be Walmart’s idea of a Rosarch test. I was hopeful until I Googled pictures of the pubic anatomy and compared them, side by side. I’m still convinced this is a rendering of the vajayjay bones. But what do you see? Do you think it’s okay that our culture has come to a place where getting girls to advertise their “sexuality” in this way is acceptable?