Restore the “Vagina”!

Restore the “Vagina”! March 23, 2012

Yes, you can buy this shirt by clicking on it.

Loyal readers will know that my friend, Rachel Held Evans, has been pressured by her Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, to remove the word “vagina” from her forthcoming book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master. The publisher, it seems, fears that Christian bookstore will not stock the book if it contains that word.

The problems with this are too numerous to enumerate. Among them:

  1. Many Christian (read, conservative evangelical) bookstores won’t stock her book anyway, because they’ll consider it “feminist.”
  2. Even if they do, they won’t sell many copies.
  3. Wait, there are still Christian bookstores?
  4. Wait, there are still bookstores?

I could go on. But there are lots of other GREAT reasons for Thomas Nelson to reconsider this decision, and they’re being posted on an Amazon petition. Like the fact that “vagina” is the least offensive term for that body part, and that speaking about the sexual organs euphemistically (“private parts”) leads to more patriarchy and more misogyny — not to mention is exacerbates evangelical fear of human sexuality.

So, do Rachel a favor and sign the petition. You can also leave a comment on Michael Hyatt’s blog. He’s the chairman and former CEO of Thomas Nelson.

UPDATE from Rachel here.

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  • Melody

    Signed. It’s absurd to deny sexuality just because it’s not traditionally considered “nice.”

  • Kenton


    I would also like to use this opportunity to challenge all of your blog readers to work the word “vagina” into at least one conversation today.

    • Yes!

    • MurrayC

      “Hey, I just saw the ‘Vagina Monologues’ ”

      How’s that?

  • seth c

    It’s her choice at the end of the day. She makes it clear that it’s a crappy choice to make but Christian bookstores do have ridiculous standards many times, and her book can get better sales potentially in a Christian bookstore. But not an ideal set of circumstances at all.

  • Not sure there is any good alternative to vagina, so how can she remove it? (there you go Kenton). If she said “beaver” those hard working dam building tree chewing rodents might get upset. Same goes for “pussy”. I think if we wrote all Of them down, vagina will start to look better and better…

    • Larry Barber

      I was wondering that, too, according to Rachel’s post she changed it to “privates”. Stupid, Stupid, Stupid. The funny thing is she uses the word in another part of her book, in reference to rape, and nobody seems to have a problem with that, but when she used it in a context of her having some control over her sexuality, well, that’s just a whole ‘nuther thing.

  • Carl Gregg

    I’m prepared to go on record as being pro-vagina. Let the record show….

  • I’m all in favor of a petition, but truthfully, it’s NOT Thomas Nelson we need to petition, but Lifeway. It’s all about the Christian bookstores.

    But, as Tony mentioned, there’s a very good chance Lifeway won’t carry it anyway, which may mean I can put “vagina” right back where it belongs. 🙂

    • Jim Henderson

      they wont carry my book Resignation of Eve either and I didnt even mention vagina

  • Dave H.

    I am completely astonished that anyone gives the smallest crap about what something called “Christian book stores” will or will not do. How could it possibly make any difference? Will anyone buy this in anything other than Kindle format anyway? It makes my vagina cry to think about this madness.

  • Evelyn

    I read Rachel’s blog and the context in which she uses the word “vagina” is in describing how she’d signed an abstinence pledge and made “a promise to God and to (her) vagina.” The use of the word is a bit spurious (though wryly humorous) here and I think that the publisher’s point about the use of “private parts” is warranted given that a lot of christian youth sign abstinence pledges and think that it means they can do “everything but”. So, if she only made a promise to her “vagina” it implies that she thinks she can be abstinent but still go to second and third bases and have anal intercourse without breaking her pledge. The justification of the word change by simply claiming that “it won’t sell in Christian book stores” doesn’t get to the heart of the issue.

  • Rusty

    I don’t think it is a big deal on either part. I don’t have a problem with the word vagina and am shocked they would ask her to change it. However if a publisher asked me to change it I would. As a pastor I constantly change words if I think it may offend someone. It is one thing if a publisher asked you to change the message another if they want you to change a word. I don’t think this is a big deal for either party.

    • Curtis

      “It is one thing if a publisher asked you to change the message another if they want you to change a word.” — Except whent the word and the message are intertwined. I haven’t seen the book, but I can image cases where the word is the point of the message, so you can’t so neatly seperate the two.

  • Considering what Rachel has said about the economics of her roof and reputation, Thomas Nelson’s distribution channels, and LifeWay’s market, there may be a better way to get what “we” want. If what we want is the word “vagina” back in the book, then perhaps we should employ the power of our pocketbooks. Let’s petition LifeWay, promising that we will buy Rachel’s book from LifeWay if the word is allowed to stand. If they go for it, then: (1) Rachel can maintain her voice, her good relationship with Thomas Nelson, and her roof. (2) Thomas Nelson can maintain their business relationship with LifeWay and vice versa. (3) LifeWay will gain new customers to offset those they lose because of Rachel’s book on their shelves. (4) “We” will get a copy of Rachel’s book—we were going to buy it anyway; might as well get it from LifeWay—the chance to make our voices count, and the joy of supporting Rachel and her leadership in causes that matter to us. Also, walking into LifeWay stores will provide a chance to share grace across the liberal/conservative Christian divide by talking to “the other.” If LifeWay doesn’t go for it this time, they’ll still probably listen more closely and next time. . . .

  • Navi Jacobs

    Good grief this is stupid.

    The petition idea is stupid.

    The very existence of a petition would raise the level of controversy and scare the bookstore away altogether.

    She just needs to decide if she wants to sell the book at the book store, or try to sell it online (which the publisher may not wish to support)

    Look either way I think we have stupidity on the part of the book store for being scared of the word, and stupidity on the part of anyone who is so fired up over this that they demand the word to be kept.

  • At the sermon on Song of Solomon my wife heard two weeks ago, the term used was, “lady bits.”


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