Yep, I had a historical symbol of the vagina tattooed on my arm
“What’s the significance?” The tattoo artist asked me in Spanish.
“Um…” I thought long and hard. I didn’t know what to say.
At that point, I only spoke a limited amount of Spanish, and definitely not enough to tell this Peruvian guy that I wanted a historical symbol for the vagina permanently etched on my left arm.
“It’s about girls,” I roughly said in Spanish after a decent amount of stuttering. He smiled and nodded, deciding that was enough information for him to continue his work.
It was about so much more than girls, though. It was a version of the vesica piscis, and I got it tattooed on my arm in November 2015.
This diagram, with its two overlapping circles and an equilateral triangle in the middle, is one of the most profound geometrical images in history. It’s a source of tremendous power and energy that has several meanings, among which the most sacred are: a description of square roots and harmonic proportions; a representation of the Tree of Life. And, most importantly, the vagina of the female goddess (aka, all of us everyday women) as the triangle, joining the the earthly and spiritual realms.
So, let me explain, because there is so much more to this story than “I wanted to get this symbolic tattoo.” You see, I had spent the last few years of my life hating my body. My weight kept fluctuating from one binge eating episode to the next, and my brain was fogged with so many self-loathing thoughts about my short, stout body that I couldn’t look at whatever lean woman was on the latest issue of Elle without bursting into tears. (No, really, I cried a lot at magazine stands back then.) I was really bad at keeping up my female friendships at this time as well. I could barely say or do anything nice for myself; there was no way I was capable of nurturing any healthy relationships.
Things started to change when I went on whirlwind travel trip. Things changed even more when I befriended a five-month-pregnant American woman living in Peru — and witnessed her labor and birth process. Without getting into the details too much — after all, her story is not mine to tell — I came out on the other side in awe of womanhood. In awe of mothers. In awe of what we are capable of. At the same time, I was spending some time at an orphanage, which was run by an incredible woman in her fifties. She barely made any money, yet devoted her life to creating a safe home for ten young kids who had nowhere else to go.
I was also meeting women from all ages, from all over the world, reveling in their unique life stories. We would do everything together, from experimenting with chocolate-banana cookie recipes to hiking up to gorgeous waterfalls. There was one friend I made during this period of my life who became very dear to me. She shared some very personal memories of the years of sexual assault she endured as a child, from someone in her family she was supposed to trust, and how that abuse affected her for years to come. I shared with her my own experience of assault at the age of sixteen. It didn’t make the pain go away, but just being able to lay it out on the table for someone else helped ease the sorrow a little bit.
It’s safe to say I was rebuilding my own body image and self-worth by discovering the amazing qualities of other women around me. They were strong, they were funny, they were totally flawed — they were rad! The most fascinating part of it all was that, instead of falling into a pile of Look at them, they’re so pretty and wonderful, and what I have ever done with my life, I was inspired. I started writing more, and I reignited my yoga practice. I even started meditating every day. Life had more color to it, and I think it’s safe to attribute that to the new people in my life.
But why did I choose the vagina? Why didn’t I get a symbol of womanhood inked into my arm?
For lots of reasons. Because our vaginas have been called too many cruel names for far too long. Because our vaginas have been physically abused too many times. Because our vaginas are still a topic that our society is wildly uncomfortable talking about, let alone caring for, in any real way. Because our vaginas can be a great source of creativity, happiness, and, yes, multiple orgasms (which, by golly, do we deserve in spades).
Think of the crude words we commonly hear in reference to our vaginas. They’re everywhere, and they’re used as common curse words in movies, TV shows, and everyday conversation. How on earth are we possibly supposed to think our reproductive organs are beautiful parts of our body if we keep hearing this kind of hurtful language?
On a more global level, consider how many women around the world still suffer female genital mutilation. For example, in Gambia, a West African country, 75 percent of girls are subjected to having their external genitalia brutally cut off. Luckily, we’re seeing more organizations bringing awareness to the issue and raising funds to stop it, and we’re witnessing more brave women come forward to speak about their experiences with genital mutilation.
Now, I know that my vagina tattoo (I must admit, it’s so satisfying calling it that) isn’t going to directly change all these issues. But, at the very least, it’s a permanent reminder to myself and to the young generation of girls coming up behind me that we can start to combat all this hatred and violence by simply talking about our vaginas in real, serious ways. Let’s reclaim the way our society talks about vaginas, without the jokes and the ugly language. Because as hippie as it sounds, our vaginas are sacred.
After seeing the above pic on Instagram, something tells me I’m not the only person who found the magic of the vesica piscis.