My daughter, at age 10, knew that her Yoni (Sanskrit for Vagina) means ‘Sacred Space.’ She grew up knowing that her Mom, and all women, cycle with the moon. She knows that she will start her Moon Flow sometime in the next few years, and even said to me the other day: “Mom, you can’t talk like this to a girl who is about to become a woman!”
One evening she talked about her budding body, referring to it as sacred, in the manner she heard it spoken of since she was very young. Then, after a pause, she asked: “Mom, do men have sacredness in their body?” “Of course,” I replied. “In the same way that girls and women have a sacred space called Yoni, men have a sacred organ called ‘Lingam,’ which in Sanskrit means ‘Wand of light.”
– “Wow” she exclaimed, “that’s nice!”
– “In English the word is Penis” I said, “have you heard it before?”
– “Yeah,” she replied, “but I didn’t know what it was…”
– “In English,” I continued, “the word for Yoni is Vagina”
– “Yes, I remember” she said
– “You may hear the words ‘Vagina’ and ‘Penis’ more often than Yoni or Lingam,” I went on, “they describe the same parts of the body in different languages.”
– “People are embarrassed when they say them” she commented.
– “I think it is because they forgot the sacredness,” I replied.
– “And it’s private, too” she added.
– “Yes, these parts of us are the most sacred, and we keep them private. When people forget that their body is sacred, then all that’s left is the privacy part, and it can become embarrassing.”
My daughter changed the subject at this point, yet the exchange stayed with me well into the next day.
I was pondering the recent campaigns fighting sexualization of girls’ and women’s bodies by the media, which I wholeheartedly support. Yet when I read them, and more poignantly when I see the continual barrage of commercial sexualized images they are fighting, I am left with a sense of profanity. These images are horrifying, and I don’t want to see them, in a continual loop, to remind me what I am fighting. I don’t, actually, want to fight! I want to create alternatives!
I would like to see a barrage of strong, empowering images of girls and women. I’d like to be immersed in solutions! Similarly, I don’t want to “Stomp out Hunger” I want to Feed All! I don’t want to read bumper stickers that say “War is Not the Answer!” I’d like to see Peace is the Only Answer!
Eradicating girls’ sexualization is essential and deeply needed, starting with the fact that my computer underlines the word ‘Sexualization’ as an error, and the spell check has no alternatives. This is a metaphor to societal denial of sexualization as an issue.
I invite us all to decorate our homes with images of womanhood we wish our girls to see! It is not enough to shield them form the degrading ones, to raise our voices in protest, and to work toward their elimination. We need to seek, gather, and create the images that we wish today’s girls to be inspired by!
Inviting you all to HELP CREATE THE ALTERNATIVES:
Please post empowering images for today’s girls,
here, or on my Facebook page – Red Tents In Every neighborhood:
Together, we can change the world!
© 2011 DeAnna L’am, All Rights Reserved
I agree I prefer to put my energy into positive alternatives what is sexual woman who is powerfull and not degraded? that is somthing to explore
i am exploring it my self and it is an amazing journey some times very very fraustrating when i meet in my self the same views and attitudes that i despise in our society
Yes, we can’t help but internalize the degradation that is so prevalent all around our cultures…
Our job is to wake up to it…
We find those thought-forms in us like weeds, and like working in our gardens we need to pull them out frequently, even as we plant our fragrant flowers…
It is my passion and my life’s work to help women tend their inner gardens :-)
YES YES YES! DeAnna…. you inspire me and I thank you!
Love *this* :
“It is my passion and my life’s work to help women tend their inner gardens” – DeAnna
I felt such an inspiring relief to know that I am not the ONLY one who believes in sending/sharing positive ways to deter the negative ones!
Your “rant” and personal story shared gave me hope that I can still empower my 15 year old to hold herself sacred and beautiful. She is modest; however, I think I scared her into it (unknowingly). I would like to teach her about “sacredness” and “inner beauty” without sounding hypocritical. Any suggestions??
The teaching of our daughters starts with us… Are you embracing your own body’s sacredness? your inner beauty? Does your daughter catch you criticizing your body in front of the mirror? Complaining about your looks? weight? height?
We need to take the journey of empowerment ourselves, first, and then we emanate it, ripple it, model it, without “lecturing” or “educating”…
Would be glad to continue this dialogue in person… Contact me on my site’s ‘Contact’ page.
I think by having strong, positive views about women it will also help our boys become men. I am really mad at how males are portrayed in our society as well. They are usually stupid and boorish thus promoting this whole sexualization of our girls. There is nothing sacred in society any more. BTW, I REALLY like your “Peace is the only answer” bumper sticker idea!
I absolutely agree, Lois!
Boys are deeply deprived of models of conscious manhood, and as starved for empowering & honoring Rites Of Passage…
I also agree that males are portrayed in stereotypical ways that perpetuates sexualization of girls & women, and keeps them alienated from their hearts.
This is a wonderful article!! As you have given permission to share this, I will do so at the next Red Tent. Lately, I have been thinking much about the sacred masculine and this puts a very strong and positive light on it. Thank you!
Thank you for this article. It is very important that we begin with ourselves first. We do have many of these same beliefs deep within that we have to route out, we don’t take time to develop ourselves or spend honoring ourselves, we model put everyone first and ourselves last. We don’t care for ourselves as though we are sacred so how would anyone let alone daughters know. It is time for woman to put themselves first and take time to refuel and overflow rather looking for others to fuel us. We are our own source and learning that will go a long way toward healing all. The boys and men will step up when woman are in their real right place as powerful creators. They would give castles and kingdoms to woman in the old days because they honored themselves first and then of course that glow could only recieve honor. It is very important for us to work on ourselves to change our view so we can than reflect it out to the world, then it will all change! And it comes down to putting time to ourselves, 1st not last. We have heard it for years but until we heed that call, it will just be discussions about things not being right. We have to lead, we are humanities creators and if we want to teach anything sacred to our girls or boys, we need to live it with our whole hearts, believing 100%. The yoni is the most sacred space that humanity has. We as woman must own that. It is great to have you put forth discussion on this because it just isn’t being discussed and then action can come. Thank you again!
Thank you for your in-depth and thoughtful response. It is good to know we share visions of empowerment. Would be good to collaborate for the good of women and girls everywhere!
There are so many thoughts going through my heart right now from your blessed post. Thank-you for it. I taught my first two children, now adults, to use the words penis and vagina. My youngest know penis and yoni (interesting mix of the two languages, though I like lingam better). Synchronistically, I was at a thrift store recently and purchased a whole bag of shiva lingam stones. I looked them up online and realized why I had felt so drawn to them. As a doula, I work around birth/reproduction all the time. The energy of yoni/lingam. I feel drawn to help educate all women about the sacredness of the moontime as well. I have been called to set up red tent gatherings as a way for women to share these teachings. As a mom and woman, I want to be empowered and empower my children with the knowledge of the sacredness of the life-giving organs. So many other thoughts but none yet organized enough to post yet. Thanks so much for this and all the blessed work you do. Till we meet in person.
Thank you for your thoughtful response and your passion for education our children in sacredness! Would love to support you in any way I can! Inviting you to stay connected :-
I first heard the term ‘vagina’ being used to describe the external genitalia of a young girl, about 18 years ago. I was surprised at the time and have become increasingly concerned since then that this term, which is the anatomically correct term for the internal female sex organ, is being used to describe the vulva. ‘Vulva’ is the collective and anatomically correct term for the external female sex organs (including clitoris, labia minora and majora, vestibular bulbs, etc). Aside from the verbal reduction of all women’s sex organs to the internal one, it bothers me enormously that the word we teach little girls to describe their body describes a place they don’t touch or experience until much older. The sex organ they experience is the vulva (and it’s component parts) not the vagina. I don’t know if this sends the message to girls that the sex organ which encompasses the penis is what matters, or that the pleasure they get from their external sex organs (not just the clitoris – the whole area is rich in sensation) is unimportant because what matters is the vagina. I do know that by using the language of medicine and using it incorrectly is muddying the waters and maintaining a state of disempowerment for female sexuality. Men would never allow the word ‘prostate’ to be confused with the word ‘penis’ so why have we women allowed the same thing? Well, I actually have some ideas about that but I’ll spare ypu those! What I want to know is: is there a separate sanskrit word for the external female genitalia that can be used in conjuction with ‘yoni’ (or vice versa as I’m not sure what you are referring to when you use ‘vagina’ in your story)? I can’t see any language being empowering until we use language that clearly distinguishes between external and internal genitalia – and teach our little girls the word that describes the external genitalia first!
Thanks for the clarification of such a common (and unconscious! mistake.
I was using ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva’ interchangeably, and I should have known better… I learn something new every day… thanks for bringing this to my attention!
As for a Sanskrit word for Vulva, a quick research shows 18 (!) different words for it!!!
This speaks volumes of a culture’s reverence and honor of women at large, and the sacredness of their body.
Here is a link to that page:
I wish we found a Sanskrit speaker who can tell us about the subtle differences among all these words!
It’s overdue – it’s time – to act right now.
Wow! So much to choose from! i agree, It would take a person who understood the language to make a choice of what to use – especially as there seems to be occasional confusion of the two terms in Sanskrit as well! Although that could be due to English translators :). A great link, though – it will provide me with much food for thought. Thank you, DeAnna.
I love what you have to say. I would just add my feeling that it’s important distinction between “sexual” and “sexualized”. Children may be sexual, and be discovering their own sexualities, at many points in their growth and development. This is a joy to be celebrated!
And encouraging children to treat their own sexualities as important and sacred and theirs to control helps support them in drawing boundaries around their inappropriate sexualization by others.
For myself, one of the things that put me, as a young girl, at risk of going along with people who were sexualizing and exploiting me was a feeling that I wasn’t “allowed” to be sexual on my own, or to plan to share my sexuality with age- and stage-appropriate partners as I became old enough and mature enough to make those choices.
If my parents hadn’t communicated what was basically “You can be a sexual person when we decide you’re old enough” I would have been spared a lot of pain.
I love this post, thank you so much.
It is a challenge, yet one I am familiar with, to raise my daughter in this sacred and self respecting way but lately I’ve been thinking more and more how important it will be to provide my son with the same values. I want him to respect that he is a man and be proud and understand what that means to him. As a good feminist I dont male bash (well occasionally but never in front of him) and I have been considering a coming of age ceremony for him as well as for her but beyond that I’m unsure how to instill a concept of sacred within him. Any ideas?
So good to hear your strong commitment for both your girl and boy!’
Raising conscious boys is indeed a feminist challenge we need to rise to, with integrity and heart…
Some of the ideas I can provide are in the article itself, starting with using the words ‘Yoni’ and ‘Lingam’ as your household words, letting both children know their meanings.
Modeling is crucial. Are you treating your body as sacred, and refer to it in sacred terms? Our modeling speaks louder than our words!
There is much more I can say, which is beyond the scope of this comment box :-)
Feel free to contact me privately (on the nav bar of this site, under ‘Contact’) and we can take it from there :-)
I appreciate your willingness to share your efforts to raise a well-balanced and fulfilled daughter. Her discussion with you shows you are on the right track in some ways.
I found myself quite disturbed, though, that a 10-year-old said she had heard the word “penis” but, in her words, “didn’t know what it was.” How could that be? Was she truly unaware of the anatomical differences between girls and boys and female and male animals in general? Had she noticed and been too afraid to ask?
Ignoring that critical distinction between yoni/vagina and vulva–which in my view is fundamental if you are embracing the Red Tent outlook–seems of a piece with neglecting to teach a child the biological terms relating to commonly viewed parts of the body. How many “teachable moments” have you missed over the past decade?
How many teachable moments I missed? Quite a few probably… It’s the nature of motherhood, and of being human.
The fact that my daughter didn’t know the word ‘penis’ doesn’t mean she didn’t know the differences between female & male anatomy. It only means this is not the word we chose to use.
We are raising her in a Waldorf school, and made the conscious choice of living media free. We happily live without a TV or other invasive media influences. Our girl is not exposed to an array of images & narratives that are prevalent in the media. There are plenty of teachable moments there too, I’m sure, but we are choosing to focus elsewhere.