Tuesday, January 16, 2007

womb as a title for a publication, updated

Some people seem to think that "womb" is a pretty provocative/controversial title for a publication. I'd like to unpack why that is. But first I'd just like to say this:

-I like the word "womb," it's etymology, and the letters w-o-m-b and their suggested visual echoes: b-o-m-b (a buzzing or booming sound), c-o-m-b (a toothed object), t-o-m-b (to swell). I have always liked the "om" combination. I also have an intense fondness for words containing "ov." And I like almost all the words used to describe female and flower anatomy. They are tasty, tangy words. I also like the word "speculum." And "hem." And "hone." And "bone." And "elixir." But I digress.

- wombs -- the body parts -- are not required for publication in WOMB.

- WOMB publishes the work of people who SELF-identify as women.

- WOMB publishes the work of multiple genders.

- WOMB is feminist.

- WOMB is for everybody.

I think one of the reasons some people are put off by the name has to do with the body, and the way certain parts/areas of the body can become sites of political discourse and how this is enacted through language. The idea of the anatomical womb and it's function as a reproductive organ is frequently used as way for others to claim possession of/power over women's bodies. In case it isn't obvious, I think this is really gross.

I think another reason why some people are made uncomfortable by the name has to do with the way WOMB seems more sincere than say, words like "pussy" or "cunt." "Pussy" and "cunt" seem more ironic and distanced...and in some ways, this irony/distance is what makes many people, especially men, more comfortable. In case it isn't obvious, I think it is okay to make people feel uncomfortable. Especially if the discomfort reveals some sort of occult privilege.

It also seems that some people make the assumption that the title WOMB is meant to be a sort of synecdoche. That the journal is a sort of "all wombs on deck" call to poets. Or else that the title is meant to glorify fecundity/fertility. Both of these assumptions tend toward an interpretation of the title as a means of being divisive. Additionally, these assumptions also align with a tendency to value women because they possess wombs, or -- even worse -- to value the womb more than the woman. In case it isn't obvious, I think these tendencies are really, really gross. It is, in fact, a desire to squash those tendencies that compel me to use words like "womb" and "ovary" and "fallopian tubes."

I know that not everyone will like the title/name of every publication. And I know language will always be the site of conflict. I like poetry because it is a radical use of language. And yes, I do think "WOMB" is a radical name for a publication.

Colloquially, it is not unusual to hear someone say that so-and-so has "balls." It also isn't unusual for people to call things "seminal," or to call a person "cocky," or to say that someone got "shafted" or is a "tool." And did you know that the word "pencil" comes from the diminutive for penis? Yes, next time you use a pencil you can think "little penis." Or "tail," which is where the word for penis comes from.

The word womb comes from the word for belly.

And check this:


1373, from O.Fr. matrice, from L. matrix (gen. matricis) "pregnant animal," in L.L. "womb," also "source, origin," from mater (gen. matris) "mother." Sense of "place or medium where something is developed" is first recorded 1555; sense of "embedding or enclosing mass" first recorded 1641. Logical sense of "array of possible combinations of truth-values" is attested from 1914.

More here.

Other things: Womb Chair from Design Within Reach & knit a womb. Also this.

WOMB POETRY Volume One is live. Check it out!

1 comment:

Unknown said...


You're brilliant.

Amy K

is this real?