Reading the article about Rep. Lisa Brown being banned indefinitely from speaking in the Michigan house brought back memories. Rep. Brown made the mistake of using the medically accurate, anatomically correct word "vagina" during an impassioned speech objecting to Michigan’s new abortion law. I’m not going to talk about how ludicrous all the debates about women’s reproductive rights in the US are. We all know these laws are being written and passed by men with very little input from women, but it did remind me of an incident when my son was four years old.
Jon was attending a Montessori kindergarten at the time. Now, you must understand that Jon was a precocious little boy, never afraid to speak his mind, and always a bit mentally older than his peers. I didn’t baby talk to him and spent the time to explain things, never wanting to use the phrase, “Because I said so.” I wanted him to learn to reason and think for himself, seek answers and not be afraid to ask why. He bought into that pretty quickly and was forever questioning things, but respectfully. He was just one of those kids that had to know why. Once explained, he would generally go on about his business with no argument. Then I got the call from the school to come right away. Jon was in big trouble. You may ask, how much trouble could a four-year-old get into at school?
When I arrived in the principal’s office, the staff was in a tizzy. Displayed prominently on the desk was a Gingerbread Man. Now, this was no ordinary Gingerbread Man. This particular confection was displaying a male appendage not often found in your local bakery. It seems the class had made the cookies that afternoon. Upon hearing that they were to make a man out of the cookie dough, my son, God love him, made an anatomically correct man. I could not help but laugh as the principal, very seriously explained that Jon’s behavior was inappropriate and she was very concerned.
When I asked why she was so upset, the principal stated, “We are concerned because he not only put the appendage on the cookie, but he also used the word ‘penis’ when he was asked what it was.”
I nearly lost it, not angry, but trying to hold back my laughter.
“Why does his use of the word penis disturb you?” I asked.
“Because boys his age do not use the word penis. We are afraid that he has been abused and taught this word by his abuser,” the principal responded.
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. The principal, who I had known nearly all my life growing up, (we were the same age,) was not happy with my reaction.
“This is a very serious matter,” she said.
I asked that my son be brought into the room. When he arrived, I told him that it wasn’t appropriate to put a penis on the cookie.
To which he replied, “Why? It’s a man. Boys have penises and girls have vaginas.”
I thought the principal was going to come out of her skin. I smiled at my son and offered this explanation, “In the cookie world, boys and girls do not have sexual organs, so although you are correct, we just don’t put them on cookies.”
“Tell the teacher you understand now and that you won’t put penises on the cookies anymore.”
Jon apologized and then I asked him to leave and wait for me outside. The principal was still gape-mouthed at the exchange between my son and I. She was not satisfied with what had just transpired in her office.
She began to explain, “Often when young children are abused they become fixated on sexual organs, and they use anatomically correct terms as taught by the abuser.”
My answer to this was not what she expected. I stood up and said, “I’m not sure what the problem is. You are concerned that my son is being abused because he knows the correct terms for body parts? I’m assuming I would not be in your office if he had called it a dick, a tee-tommy, a willy-wacker, his little man, a weewee, a ding dong or a weenie. We don’t use those terms at our house. We use the correct medical terms for them. To assume he is being abused because I taught him those terms is just about as funny as seeing the penis on the cookie man. If there is nothing else, I’ll be taking my son out of school for the rest of the day and rewarding him for using the correct words. Y’all have a nice day.”
My son grew up to be a wonderful man, kind and gentle, and respectful of women. So, when Rep. Brown was silenced for using the correct medical term for the female anatomy, I started laughing. Maybe if the dicks, weewees, and ding dongs she offended had been taught the correct anatomical terms as four year olds, they would have more respect for women in general.