This post originally appeared on VICE Sweden
In Sweden, the past few days have been all about penises and vaginas. Last week Bacillakuten, a children's show from Sweden's public service broadcaster SVT called released a music video for its "Snoppen och Snippan" [Swedish for "the penis and the vagina"] song to coincide with the premiere of its new season. Since the show chose to illustrate the bouncy, infectious track with a literal pair of dancing genitals, this video made headlines both in Sweden and around the world.
Bacillakuten deals with the body and our most common physical conditions, so it's not out of character for it to talk about some organs that everyone has. But after the video was posted to SVT's Facebook page on January 8, it was immediately met by criticism on social media. Some people were obviously concerned about little kids being exposed to genitals, but others complained that the video promoted restrictive gender norms and transphobia.
The video is about the "nice gang," i.e. the penis and the vagina. The penis wears a hat, and the accompanying lyrics are about how penises wear trousers. The vagina, on the other hand, wears makeup and has long eyelashes. In Sweden, where gender issues are often controversial topics, it's not surprising that displays of such stereotypical tropes upset some people.
The video—which YouTube briefly slapped with an "adult" label before SVT objected—has received plenty of positive reviews for its attempt to strip away the drama and stigma from our genitals. But Swedish activists were pissed off that the video featured cis-centric lyrics like, "Pee, pee with the penis / Or the vagina if you're a girl!" and imagery like this:
After all, "girls have vaginas, boys have penises" might be an upsetting thing to hear for a person born with a vagina who identifies as a boy. And in a country that had "gender-neutral" preschools all the way back in 2011, linking gender to genitals can come off as a fairly conservative message.
Following the online storm, project manager of the show, Kajsa Peters, sat down and answered some of the harshest criticism on SVT's website. Among many things, she said:
There might be a pedagogic point to inform children that this is how it generally looks like; if you have a vagina you're regarded as a girl by others when you're born. If you have a penis you're regarded as a boy. To be on the children's side can sometimes mean to meet them in the reality they are living in. We would never stand behind a song that says that girls with penises aren't real girls or that boys with vaginas aren't real boys.
Obviously, this video wasn't intended to be transphobic or hurt anyone. But if Sweden is progressive and mature enough to handle a show about a dancing erection being shown to kids, it's probably mature enough to do so without throwing in some 50s-esque gender identity tropes—as adorable as that erection looks in a mustache and a hat. As Swedish blogger Lady Dahmer wrote this week, "There's no reason to point out that 'girls have vaginas' because no child on earth has missed that." There's plenty of reason, however, to point out that vaginas are normal, even fun—and that both boys and girls can have a vagina or a penis.
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