Do the words we use matter? Christine Labuski argues they do, in particular the words we use to describe our sexual organs. For our “Sexuality & Gender Studies Now” series, she challenges society’s unwillingness to use the correct terminology when describing women’s sexual body parts, using “vagina” as a catch-all term. Through her research, Labuski calls attention to how detrimental to women it can be to not use the more precise term “vulva.” Additionally, she emphasizes the need for more interdisciplinary research on the vulva—beyond the medical—that critically engages with gender, sexuality, the cultural, and the political aspects of a woman’s body.
Christine Labuski is an associate professor of women’s and gender studies at Virginia Tech, and is the director of the biannual Gender, Bodies & Technology conference. She holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, as well as undergraduate and master’s degrees in nursing. Labuski’s work has focused on the intersections of gender, bodies, sexualities, and technologies, particularly in the United States, and via qualitative methods and methodologies. Her most recent work explores the gendered dimensions of energy systems and labor relations. She has also written about researching transgender populations and about the gendered dimensions of civilian drones. Labuski is the coauthor, with Nicholas Copeland, of The World of Wal-Mart: Discounting the American Dream (Routledge, 2012) and the author of It Hurts Down There: The Bodily Imaginaries of Female Genital Pain (SUNY, 2015). She maintains a keen interest in undergraduate instruction and has received several teaching awards at Virginia Tech. She was a 2004 dissertation fellow of the Sexuality Research Fellowship Program.