Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This article, Rebelling Against the Commonly Evasive Feminine Care Ad, is worth the read, for the main focus of the article (Kotex's new approach to marketing tampons). But this tiny tidbit has got to be my favorite part:

Merrie Harris, global business director at JWT, said that after being informed that it could not use the word vagina in advertising by three broadcast networks, it shot the ad cited above with the actress instead saying “down there,” which was rejected by two of the three networks.
The ads are selling tampons -- which are things you stick inside your VAGINA -- but they are not allowed to say the word "vagina."


You can say "bitch" on TV, but you can't say "vagina." You can say "ASS" on TV, but you can't say "vagina." BECAUSE THAT ONE IS DIRTY AND OFFENSIVE.

I have been accused, in the past, of overreacting to things. Of reading too much into it. Of looking for something to be offended about.

Years ago, this must have been in the late 90s because I was still in college (sitting around at home in the morning hours because my classes were in the afternoon) I remember seeing an episode of the Christina Applegate TV show where she worked as a nurse. She had to learn how to draw blood from people, so she was practicing on an orange. Something happened, where a guy got a promotion or raise or cool assignment and she didn't, and she got all up in arms and went to the supervisor or person in charge and said that it was not fair that the guy was given X (instead of it being given to her) just because he had a penis.

They said the word "PENIS." On TV. In a sitcom. In the middle of the day, when children could be at home, watching sitcom reruns.

I remember this distinctly because a few nights before, we had been watching The Big Lebowski on that same channel. At midnight. Late at night. When children and their precious, delicate virgin ears were in bed.


Remember the scene where Julianne Moore is painting in her art studio, and she tells Jeff Bridges her paintings resemble VAGINAS? (Or something like that. The point is that the dialogue included the word VAGINA.)

When her character said the word "VAGINA," the word was muted. IT WAS CENSORED.

AS IF SHE HAD SAID A CUSS WORD (of which there are plenty in The Big Lebowski, if I recall correctly. EXCEPT THAT VAGINA IS NOT ONE OF THEM.)

This upset me. 

Why is it okay to say PENIS in the middle of the day in TV but we cannot say VAGINA in the middle of the night on TV?

What is wrong with the word VAGINA??? Can you even begin to explain it to me??

You can say "arm" on TV. You can say "foot" on TV. You can say "nose" on TV. You can even say "breast" on TV.

Why are VAGINAS so scary and offensive and naughty???

It would be one thing if we banned the medical term for all reproductive and/or sexual organs. Now, this would put several marketing campaigns in quite a pickle in October -- how are they going to sell us PINK JUNK if they can't tell us it's for BREAST cancer awareness? Are we going to have to refer to October as HOOTER cancer awareness month?

But when you allow breast and penis, BUT BAN VAGINA, you are sending a clear message that those are okay, but THAT ONE is not. THAT ONE is dirty. And bad. And icky. Ew!!!

No, I'm not okay with that.

And neither is my VAGINA.


  1. Great post! I am equally upset that the word "vagina" is banned from a TAMPON commercial. Of course, we are allowed to say "penis" until our lungs are sore. But "vagina"? Oh, no, of course not, Ms. Feminazi, because "vagina" is a dirty, dirty word! This is one of those (many) times I want to say "f*ck you" to patriarchy!

  2. For the same reason that everyone freaks out about a 0.00004 second flash of boob, in the midst of a show in which commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs are rampant. And yes, it is ridiculous, and no, you are not over-reacting one bit. No wonder women feel their bodies are dirty.

    I also think it's wierd how there are so many words for the male reproductive organ that are said so easily in common language (penis, cock, dick, etc). But vagina does have a dirtier connotation to it. There is not one actual name for "down there" that I can think of that it used casually the way penis names are. So instead we make up "cutesy" names (vajayjay) or just say "down there" and it makes it an unmentionable, which means it must be something to be ashamed of. Because if it weren't, why would the word be considered so dirty? if the WORD is dirty, what about the actual vagina itself??? It's all very messed up.

  3. Marcy: YES! We talk about a guy's "down there" but we don't talk about a girl's "down there"; we have words for the one, but not the other.

    I remember when we were still in Chile, and Elisa was changing Alejandra's diaper. I must have been somewhere in the range of 5-8 years old? I can't remember what I wanted to say, or what Elisa had said, but I remember not being able to say or ask what I wanted to because I DIDN'T HAVE A WORD TO REFER TO MY FEMALE COUSIN'S STUFF THAT'S IN HER DIAPER.

    I knew that for a boy, I could say "pene" [penis] or "pipí" [wee-wee, pee-pee]. But I had no idea what word to say for what girl had. I don't even know if I knew back then to call it "vagina," or if I knew that's what it was for grown WOMEN but somehow thought little girls had something that had a different name. AND WE ARE TALKING ABOUT MY OWN DADGUM BODY PART HERE. I could talk about my brother's genitalia, BUT I COULD NOT TALK ABOUT MY OWN.

    How very screwed up that is.

  4. Even worse, it's OK to talk about "vajazzling" one's va-jay-jay on television. I'm starting to really hate that word. When grown-ass men start calling their dicks "pee-pee" or "tinkle-winky", I'll think about using va-jay-jay.

    I wrote about the Kotex campaign more generally this morning at re:Cycling, the blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. I hope you enjoy my post as much as I enjoyed yours.

  5. I am with you on this one, Why is it that only men's sex organs are glorified?!

  6. "men's sex organs are glorified?". . I don't really get that. 1/3 of the skin surface is amputated at birth for most American males. Mutilated is a better word. If there's a trade off between having intact genitals and mentioning the word, I'll take the intact genitals any day.

    I don't think tampon ads that exhort women to keep running, running, running through their moontime are women friendly. If my favourite cloth pad company (LunaPads) wants to use the term vagina in their advertising, I'd fight to the death for them, tho. BTW, Vagina is a city in Saskatchewan, right? oh no, that's Regina, never mind :)

  7. WiseWoman-- circumcision rates are down to 50% currently in the US, and my guess is those numbers will keep going down as time passes. Wish I could say attitudes about women and our genitalia were changing that quickly...

  8. True, Marcy, the tide seems to have turned on male genital mutilation (thank heaven) but I was thinking of the 30-somethings--the rate when they were born was 85%.

    I hate babytalk words for the anatomy but notice that many people say "vagina" when they are really referring to the "vulva". Is vulva allowed on American TV?

  9. WiseWoman, men's genitalia is glorified in our society. Even when we use words like "c*ck" and "d*ck" as insults, we're glorifying penises. (We also glorify serial killers and mass murderers; we put them on TV and interview them and blah blah, even when we put them in jail or kill them later.)

    Sadly, when men are babies (literally, not metaphorically), we want to mutilate their genitalia by cutting off the foreskin for (arguably) no good reason. The mentality on that is changing, but it's still very much there.

    (Interestingly, my husband is the one who wants to circumcise our kids if we were to have sons. I'm against it, but he wants it. So I'm blaming men on this one. :P )

    Regarding vagina v. vulva, I honestly can't say I know the difference between them (which word refers to what, exactly). WHICH IS HORRIBLY SAD.

    My guess is that "vulva" is not necessarily banned from TV the way "vagina" is, because not enough people know what "vulva" is. (However, in that Seinfeld episode, they didn't say the word... so maybe it is banned?)

  10. "Vulva"--outer female genitalia (what's visible)
    "Vagina" --inner female genitalia

    Never let anyone make a decision on amputation of the foreskin for your son. Fight to the death for his basic human right to an intact body. Educate your partner by watching Youtube videos of the actual procedure--no one would do it if they knew how awful it really is.

  11. The conversation is definitely not over, but at this point it's all still a hypothetical. Once it becomes a reality, we shall have a serious talk. And I will come armed with all the info I can scrounge.

  12. Anonymous9:34 PM

    "Fight to the death for his basic human right to an intact body."

    Yes, make sure to fight for this after he is born, but feel free to do a guilt-free rip apart of his body today.

  13. Anonymous7:31 PM