Woman is a dirty word

My nine-year-old is obsessed with Titanic. Really, all shipwrecks, but it all started with the Titanic. A single documentary I put on for the boys two years ago simply to occupy them, and here we are, inundated with books and documentaries and toys about shipwrecks.

My husband and I discussed letting him watch the 1997 film Titanic. We worried it might be a bit intense despite his obsession with shipwrecks and all disaster-related things. I also knew he would find the main plot boring. But we decided a couple of months ago to watch it as a family.

Both my nine-year-old and four-year—old are enamored with the film. Both watched wide-eyed, marveling during the sinking.

“Mom,” the nine-year-old said. “I love Titanic. Thanks for letting me watch it. Can I watch it again sometime?”

Recently, I shared with some family members that the boys watched the movie and loved it. A silence permeated the room as I shared the story. Finally, the decision was questioned.

“You let them watch the entire movie?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Even Rose’s nudity?”

“Um, yes,” I drawled.

“We fast-forwarded through the sex scene,” my husband said.

“But what about the naked scene?”

“No. I mean, it’s just a naked body. There’s nothing sexual about it,” I explained.

“You don’t think a naked body is a bit inappropriate?”

I do not think a naked body is inappropriate.  And I find it interesting there was no concern about the actual sex scene, but a naked body, a naked female body was problematic.

During a virtual game of Cards Against Humanity a couple of weeks ago, a player started to share her answer.

“I have to warn you, I’m about to use a really dirty word.” There was a hint of apology in her voice. “Clit,” she mumbled.

I looked at my husband. “Clit’s not a dirty word, it’s a body part.”

“I know.” He shrugged his shoulders.

We are conditioned to see evil in the female body. Woman, a dirty word ringing down the centuries. The female outline meant for inducing pleasure. It’s locked behind doors, parceled out for the male gaze.

We are sexual beings, but our parts are not inappropriate. The topography of my body exists for many reasons, many of its parts holding more than one truth. None of it is distasteful, worthy of disdain.

I have the difficult job of raising two boys in a misogynistic, patriarchal culture. I’m simultaneously discovering how the patriarchy has informed my own thinking while teaching my boys a new way. At times, it’s overwhelming. It doesn’t help when people around them think female bodies in-and-of-themselves are inappropriate.

It’s amazing how a female nude in repose and the word clit can make a butt pucker. Puritanical ideals still grasping hold of us 400 years later. Four-hundred years later, the female identity is still fraught with mixed signals.

By Imperfection

Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter is a mom and writer from Omaha, Nebraska but recently relocated to Urbandale, IA. When she’s not chasing children, picking up messes or reorganizing the house, she enjoys yoga or reading to relax. In her spare time (A.K.A. her dreams) she’s a Broadway star. Kuenning-Pollpeter is a freelance marketer during the day, a creative writer at night. Her work has appeared in the Brevity blog, The Omaha World Herald, 13th Floor, Misbehaving Nebraskans, Hippocampus, Emerging Nebraska Writers and Random Sample Review. She has her BFA and MFA in writing from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her essay “The Body” was a McKenna Fellowship finalist, and her essay “Imperfection” was a 2020 Best of the Net Nominee. She is blind and writes frequently about disability. She’s working on a memoir about the disabled feminine experience. With the kids though, expect it in stores in about a decade.

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