I speak five Indian languages but for the life of me cannot remember the word for “vagina” in any of them. Except for Sanskrit, where the word “yoni” is used in a spiritual sense, and I learnt this only recently because I was asked to review a funny take on Indian spirituality by an Englishman.
Whilst many parts of the female anatomy have been a matter of great inspiration for poets, sculptors and other creative people, somehow the vagina was provided with a fig leaf and remained in the private space. It is undoubtedly a very important part of a woman’s sexuality, and also the most important part to ensure the continuation of the human species. But never has it been accorded the importance it is getting in 21st century India.
Of course, the objectification of each individual part of a woman has increased in direct proportion to the number of Indian women who have won Miss India and Miss World titles. Perhaps the introduction of Miss Beautiful Eyes, Miss Charming Smile, Miss Perfect 10, Miss Lovely Lips and Miss Beautiful Skin was the beginning of the objectification of each feminine body part, with the sponsor of each such award being the one who had products catering to the enhancement of this particular part of the female anatomy!
The breasts of course have always been a favourite target, from the days of Khajuraho. There are enough studies to show that women are very insecure about this part of their anatomy, and to cash in on this insecurity came the Wonder Bra guaranteed to provide the desired “lift” when all else fails. The latest buzz is that this product is soon to be made available in India!
Despite the many reports of the risks of silicon implants, women have put themselves under the knife for breast enhancements and other forms of lifts. Botox-fills, face-lifts, tummy-tucks, pouting lips, Helen of Troy-like noses, non-slanting eyes -- women have been seduced by all the hype into believing that beautifying respective parts ensures happiness, never mind the millions of bucks down the drain and the health risks from these invasive surgeries.
Is it surprising then that the last bastion of a woman’s sense of privacy and modesty should not fall. The first time one heard of this was when doctors stitched women’s vaginas back to their virginal stage so that the women’s “misdeeds” would not be discovered on the new marital bed! At other times, women went through this painful process to enhance the sexual experience for their partners.
Earlier this year, we heard about a product that would lighten the bikini line area and vagina so that women could have fulfilling sexual lives! And now is made available in India, the ultimate vaginal tightening gel, 18 Again! The advertisement shows a young married woman (apparently from an orthodox family) prancing around and playing the coquette with her husband (the temptation is too hard to resist and finally he decides not to go to the office and the couple make their way to their bedroom instead!), as old and young members of the family look on with astonishment and wonder, bordering on admiration. The advertisement ends with the elderly grandmother ordering the product online whilst her elderly husband looks on happily. There is nothing said overtly about the product (except the background score of “I feel like a virgin”) but it holds out the promise of going back to being a virginal 18. There are two assumptions here: the first being that one is a virgin at 18! The other even more galling one is the assumption that the happiest state for a woman is that of remaining a virginal 18 for the rest of her life!
Whilst nobody’s questioning anybody’s right to have a fulfilling sexual relationship at any stage of life, it is appalling that the 21st century woman is being targeted by advertisers, the medical profession and product-makers with unfounded promises. At a time when women have stormed many male bastions, it seems pathetic that they should be made insecure about their physical bodies with products that can only damage their health and do nothing for their peace of mind.
There was a time when age was respected in India and grey hair counted for wisdom. Now, it seems that India has gone overboard in its celebration of youth, causing untold damage to the psyche of people, especially women, who from childhood already imbibe the message that you are what you look.
It is time for women to throw out all those pots of lotions, potions and promises of eternal youth and fight for the right to be more than just Ms Beautiful Eyes, Skin, and Lips. And, worst of all, Ms Virginal Vagina!