Most people have heard of the diary; it is the real life musings of a teenage girl who died at the hands of the Holocaust. She and her family went into hiding to avoid the Nazi regime, but were caught. They were sent to notorious concentration camps, and joined the ranks of millions of Jews who were killed in the name of racial purity.
When Anne’s father, Otto Frank survived, he returned home to discover that he was the only surviving member of his family. His daughters and wife had perished. He discovered his daughter’s diary, and decided to publish it, so that people all over the world could know what it is like to be a teenager, and know that leaving the house could result in your death.
Not surprisingly, it is now considered one of the most important social documents from the era. Her diary has been translated into countless languages and sold numerous copies.
However her diary is in the spotlight of the international media this week for an entirely different reason. This time it is not in celebration of the strength of this teenage girl, who documented her time in hiding. Rather, she is in the spotlight because, according to one woman, Gail Horalek, the diary is pornographic and unsuitable for her seventh grade daughter.
We can assume that this woman’s daughter is either twelve or thirteen. This girl and her classmates, who were required to read it for class, probably know a few simple truths at this point of their lives. Most will know that they have something called a vagina.
Anne Frank wrote this diary when she was around a year older than the seventh grade girls who are currently reading it. She also knew she had a vagina. According to Gail Horalek, this is what makes the diary pornographic and unsuitable for young girls.
The passage that Horalek refers to is this one:
“Until I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t realize there was a second set of labia on the inside, since you couldn’t see them. What’s even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris…When you’re standing up, all you see from the front is hair. Between your legs there are two soft, cushiony things, also covered with hair, which press together when you’re standing, so you can’t see what’s inside. They separate when you sit down and they’re very red and quite fleshy on the inside. In the upper part, between the outer labia, there’s a fold of skin that, on second thought, looks like a kind of blister. That’s the clitoris.”
The passage is fairly clear cut. It simply details a young girl’s fascination with her vagina and with her body. Surely this description, and these musings from Anne Frank, are similar to what go through the heads of many young girls. After all, it is only natural for a child to find the changes their body goes through during puberty to be fascinating.
Horalek’s claim encompasses difficulties that have plagued the human race for thousands of years, yet we consistently fail to do anything about; that is the sexualisation of the woman’s body by society, and the encouragement of the belief that women are merely temptresses, only there to tear men away from the good, holy lives they could have led.
Why does society encourage the belief that genitals are something to be ashamed of? We still associate women with the famous depiction of Eve from the Bible. She famously disobeyed God – she took the forbidden fruit from the tree, and just like that, she and Adam became ashamed of their nudity, and everything started to go wrong.
In fact, the story of Adam and Eve is a metaphor for sex. The forbidden fruit that they were supposed to stay away from was the act of sex, and of course, Eve was the one who couldn’t control herself. Even at the time this was written, woman was presented as the sexual miscreant, with man being the pitiable slave at her service.
Women’s rights have come a long way in recent years. In many parts of the world, women are seen as equals to men, ready to contribute to the world around them as much as they please.
Yet one thing Horalek’s comments prove is that we have much further to go. Full equality will never be achieved until we de-sexualise the vagina, and de-stigmatise the natural fascination of men and women with their bodies.
Rather than condemning the diary of Anne Frank for giving a description of her vagina, we should champion her honesty. This is not pornographic, it is mere biology. The intention of pornographic material is to sexually excite or arouse. It is highly unlikely Anne Frank intended to sexually excite her readers, considering she never intended to have readers; this diary was a personal one that she happened to be writing before her death.
Most of all, however, we must look at Horalek’s comments critically, and remind ourselves that Anne Frank’s diary is vital to people of today. We must keep the devastation of the Holocaust in our minds to avoid any kind of repetition. Her description of her body must be seen as an aspect of adolescence, and the truthfulness of this work should be commended rather than be seen as something that is wrong, dirty and sexually deviant.