Lady Parts and Justice
Lady parts. Lady parts. Lady parts. Lady parts. Lady parts.
What are you thinking about right now? Is it lady parts? Is it a uterus? Breasts? A vagina? Ovaries? Good ol’ fallopian tubes?
There’s no way for me to really know, but odds are when you hear the term “lady parts,” you aren’t thinking about a penis, prostate, or testes. Yet I am a woman and have these parts so they are, by extension, also lady parts. Sadly many people today would disagree and many people who would agree would take a while to make that association on their own. So until that day comes (and Goddess, I hope it does someday), can we agree “Lady Parts” has a specific colloquial connotation? OK, good.
So where am I going with this? Well, it recently popped up in my feed that the Lady Parts Justice League is visiting my city with their Vagical Mystery Tour.
So what is the Lady Parts Justice League about? They are about some amazing things! And I say that with all sincerity.
Here it is in their own words:
LPJL is the only reproductive rights non profit that travels the country doing comedy and providing aid and comfort to clinics in hostile states. By day, we escort patients, prepare staff meals, repair fences or paint murals. By night, we do comedy shows. We gather audiences for an evening of fun and use the shows as an opportunity to meet their local providers, learn about their needs, with the goal of turning the audiences into a clinic support network that lasts long after we leave town. #WeShowUp
From everything I see, they do great work educating people about reproductive justice and supporting abortion clinics (all while making people laugh). I want that work to continue! It’s super important work! But what I don’t want to continue is the association between vaginas, vulvas, uteruses, ovaries, and fallopian tubes with LADY/WOMAN/FEMALE.
If we are going with the above agreed upon point that “lady parts” has a specific connotation to certain sexual organs (and not others), the name Lady Parts Justice League not only says “we want justice for uteruses, vaginas, and all their interconnected sexual organs,” but it also says those same organs are *lady* parts. That implicit declaration is trans exclusionary and binaristic (reinforcing the idea that only two genders exist and that bodies and people exist in a binary fashion). It says that ladies have these parts (and not other parts) and that other genders do not have these parts (since we are gendering them specifically as lady parts). Both of these implicit assertions are wrong and harmful to trans folx.
At some point in time, the organization has at least thought about this (or someone has brought it to their attention) and they have a note about the name on their website under their “Our Team” tab.
Now, I’m glad in the grand scheme of things that this note exists, that trans folx are named, and that the organization asserts they “don’t connect reproductive parts with gender.” These are good things! But is it enough?
No. As they say “all your marketing, imagery, campaigns, and the title of your organization” speak louder than a few words buried in your website.
Look, I think these things are great! That logo is epic. The puppet is cute and the name of the tour is hilarious! It would all be so innocently wonderful if it wasn’t gendered by the name of the organization. Like, it could be welcoming for trans folx if they just changed the name and admitted they are about justice for people with uteruses and vaginas. That’s not a bad thing! That’s actually a really good thing! But please just call it what it is and stop gendering genitals by association.
But why do I care so much? I mentioned earlier that these ideas are harmful to trans folx, but let me spell that out just so you understand part of why I’m taking the time to write this.
How does it harm trans women? Well, making strong associations between the parts cis women have and womanhood without also making those associations for the parts trans women can have props up the idea that genitals are acceptable markers of a woman and thereby cis women are real women and trans women are not. This idea that trans women are not women is not only mentally damaging to trans women, but also generally leads to harmful ideas like we have mental illnesses. And finally, when you combine the idea that trans women are not real women with homophobia and toxic masculinity, you have a perfect combination of harmful ideology to manifest the murders of trans women by cis men because they are so enraged by the idea that they could be attracted to a person who happens to have a penis.
How does it harm other trans folx? Well, how do you think it would feel to try to receive care for your sexual organs that are labeled “lady parts” if you are a trans man or nonbinary person? Or explaining to your insurance why you need certain procedures? What about making an appointment for an abortion if you need one? Will you be respected? Will people be thinking about your needs and concerns? I know friends that have had to go to the “Women’s Center” for this or that to get the care they need, but they aren’t women!
Before I end this, let me make a few things crystal clear:
- I think we should all be talking about reproductive rights.
- I think those conversations should name vaginas, uteruses, ovaries, and use other anatomically correct terms.
- I think those conversations should center people who have those parts as they have been historically and uniquely oppressed in a variety of ways that relate specifically to reproduction.
- Cis women, you can be as proud of your genitals and sex organs as you want. Shout it from the fucking rooftop and I’d smile and clap for you.
- I think it’s not only possible, but necessary to both appreciate and critique organizations, events, actions, etc… These are not mutually exclusive in my book.
So what do I want? I want a world where people of all genders can talk about their bodies with correct terminology while also acknowledging that reproductive organs don’t belong to any one gender. I want organizations that work for reproductive justice saying they are working for reproductive justice and not “women’s rights” or “lady parts” because more than just women need reproductive justice and care for their uteruses, vaginas, ovaries and more. And, finally, I want a world in which I can think of all of my parts as lady parts because the detachment of gender and genitals has become so normalized and internalized that it’s no longer an effort on my part.