What’s ‘la passera’ all about?

Passera’ is an Italian endearment for the vagina—it means ‘the sparrow’. So, why have i chosen to feature it so prominently on this blog?

In English, slang references to the vagina are at best bemusing and at worst (and more frequently) completely degrading. Because the signified ‘vagina’ is expressed almost solely in a vocabulary of insults and offensive terms (the signifiers pussy, twat, cunt, &c.), vagina has itself become something of a dirty word. It’s refreshing to know that not all languages function the same way; that the vagina isn’t always already associated with the offensive, revolting or unspeakable. 

The vagina (in fact, the whole female genitals, including synonyms, like cunt) is probably one of the most unspeakable words out there: how many women do you know who actually say “my vagina” or even “vulva”?. Probably, none. In my experience there’s a lot of “mmhmm”, “uh-huh”, “place”, “bits”, “lady bits”, “garden”, “centre”, “down there” and so on. Even a gynaecologist i saw once said she wanted to examine “down there”.

Vagina isn’t a dirty word. Vulva isn’t. Hell, even cunt, the most pervasive linguistic taboo, isn’t a dirty word, not when used to signify female genitals rather than, you know, something disgusting or reprehensible.

For as long as saying those words in the proper context remains taboo, women remain stuck under phallogocratic rule. Until we can reestablish ownership of the word and its associations, we can’t (re)establish ownership of the initial signified: the female body. English doesn’t have an equivalent for la passera, not yet, but it’s a goal to shoot for.

For now, what say you we try to put an end to shamefully mumbling euphemistic circumlocutions and instead give female genitals the speech act they’ve so long been denied? The vulva is not a dirty little secret. The clitoris is not obscene. The vagina isn’t worthy of disgust. So name it, speak it, make its presence known: rebel against this linguistic phallocracy!

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