Danielle Rennard, Staff Writer
Professionals discuss relationships between women’s sexuality and social constructs during the “Welcome to Your Coochie” series of events
On Monday, March 11 SUNY Oneonta got down and dirty during “Welcome to Your Coochie; An Intimate, Multidisciplinary Peek at Female Naughty Bits.” There were various events held throughout the day that discussed student knowledge on “vagina politics,” along with tabling events with hands-on activities and information. There was also a graffiti board in the ballroom where people could freely express themselves, writing and drawing any thoughts related to the event. If you weren’t able to attend any of these events, you truly missed out, but here’s an insider of what you missed.
Dr. Bambi Lobdell, a professor in the the women’s studies department, is responsible for sparking the idea for the coochie events and making them come to life. She got the idea around a year ago when some of her students brought to her attention the high level of misinformation and ignorance many female students have about their very own bodies. She then realized that she wanted to create an event that provided an opportunity for discussions and open questioning between students, health care professionals, teachers and leaders in women’s issues.
Lobdell said, “The focus on women’s sexuality is the main way society judges whether a girl is ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ dismissing any other criteria as unimportant. I think it is important to give women a place to discuss their bodies (health care, desires, sexuality…) while contesting the cultural message that women are only bodies.”
The beauty of this event was that all questions were welcome. Females were able to freely speak about areas of inquiry concerning women’s bodies, reproductive cycles, health care, desire and sexual activities. But don’t be fooled! Several fellows also attended many of these events and stated that they learned a lot of new information and facts that they found intriguing.
But what is a coochie? Where did the word come from? Barb Sandars, a family nurse practitioner that was one of the guest speakers, explained that the “coochie” was originally a sexually provocative belly dance that became highly popular after the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. However, over time it became just another nickname for the vagina. Sandars also spoke about how 20 percent of women are raped in the United States by the age of 25, and worldwide one out of three woman experience incidents of harassment or violence. She recommended a novel called “Half the Sky,” which is about international women who have been violated but used their experiences as power to fuel their desire to help them prevent this from happening to other people.
The tables that were outside of the events were also filled with informative pamphlets and volunteers that were more than happy to discuss any questions you have with them. There were several flyers discussing a variety of topics that ranged from the signs of cancer in men and women, to the use of female condoms, to information about women and gender studies here at SUNY Oneonta. Jen Leon, a VIP (Very Influential Peer), was running one of the tables and was extremely enthusiastic about the events and did an excellent job at distributing different facts about the coochie.
Leon said, “The biggest problem is that girls are not educated about what the coochie is and are too embarrassed to find out about their own bodies.”
Another presenter was Rebecca Harrington, a health educator at SUNY Oneonta, who discussed different ways to respect the coochie. Lobdell and Harrington have been working on having more of these events in the future. There is so much more that can be covered, and they are hoping that more people would want to lead discussions or present any workshops, as well as students. Also, for October they would like to have an event for Breast Cancer Awareness month that will focus on breasts.
A special thanks to Bambi Lobdell, Rebecca Harrington, Ingrid Husisian, Ken Havenstein, Barb Sanders and April Harper for presenting, and also to all the volunteers and everyone else that made this event come together and become such an informative and fun way for students to find out more about their own bodies.