The Shocking Ramifications Of Saying “Vagina”

The Shocking Ramifications

Of Saying “Vagina”

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Within minutes of posting about her newest campaign on Facebook, female entrepreneur, Karen Long, was shut down. And no, she wasn’t talking about drugs or terrorism, she was talking about the female body.

“I did not think we were living in the 1880’s and we couldn’t talk about a woman’s anatomy,” says Long, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Nuelle, a female-focused health company which addresses sexual wellness. Nuelle’s star product, Fiera, which is sold online, has proved incredibly difficult to market, says Long, who despite raising 23 million in funding, has been unable to secure advertisements online, in print and on billboards alike.

“We need to find the women who are looking for solutions to things like vaginal dryness or emotional sexual health, and when we try to advertise we get immediately shut down,” said Long, adding that she’s been unable to even purchase a “obscenity”-free Facebook ad, due to the fact that the URL included in the ad linked back to a page that had the word “vagina” on it.

To take a stand against the censorship, Long has created and rolled out a new social movement called Legalize V, which was not surprisingly blocked from audience view by Facebook within days of launch.

“Facebook in particular is the biggest offender because they shut us down the fastest when we’re trying to talk about female sexuality,” says Long, adding that she has been equally rebuffed by Google Display Networks, and magazines like Vanity Fair, People Magazine, Vogue and In Style, which are ironically struggling to maintain print advertisers. “We are considered obscene and vulgar because we are talking in very direct language about a woman’s anatomy, and so we can’t advertise anywhere.”

We haven’t talked about women’s health, period. Pun intended.

Long, of course, has the option to side-step the word vagina, as decoy words—including “pussy”—are permissible, but she refuses to “make up a language” that in her opinion, ultimately degrades and undermines women.

“You make up words for [vagina] and herein lies the issue that we have in this country. We put such shame and such taboo around women’s sexuality in particular, but all sexuality in general,” says Long.

“We say things like ‘down-there’ or ‘vajajay’ or “hoo-ha,” and we think it’s cute and funny but we don’t recognize the reason behind why we’re doing it or about the ramifications of using that language.

Why should we put women or any other human being in a place of shame in order to comply?”

Long’s campaign, which rolled out last week, is meant as a way for women entrepreneurs, specifically those in healthcare, “to take a stand against the media who don’t allow us to educate in the way we want to.” The campaign, which features a “power squad” of thought leaders including Alexandra Fine, CEO and Co-Founder of Dame Products; Cindy Whitehead, Founder of The Pink Ceiling; Jordana Kier, Co-Founder of LOLA; Amanda LaFleur, Founder and Executive Director of NAPMDD; Colette Courtion, CEO of Joylux Products; and Michelle King Robson, Founder of HER Inc., is meant to change the minds, and rules surrounding female sexual health.

“Vagina” is a metaphor for the bigger issue.

“The initial video we created is basically just people saying vagina a bunch of times and having it bleeped out,” says Long. “I want people to watch and share the video, and sign our petition so we can get a meeting with Facebook to just explain the issue. I am positive that a human being on the other side, and hopefully Sheryl Sandberg, would hear our story and say ‘that’s crazy.’”

“We are considered obscene and vulgar because we are talking in very direct language about a woman’s anatomy.”

The use of the word vagina has been headline news in recent years. Just seven months ago a teacher in Michigan was fired for using the word in an art history class while describing the reproductions of flower paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. Similarly, back in 2012, a female legislator was banned from the House of Representatives for the same infraction.

“It’s insane,” says Long. “This is 2016 and unless people get mad-and it takes bravery to get mad-it won’t change. We’ve created a culture of embarrassment surrounding this issue.”

THE BIG PICTURE

“We say things like down-there or ‘vajajay’ or “hoo-ha,” and we think it’s cute and funny but we don’t recognize the reason behind why we’re doing that or about the ramifications of using that language.”

-Karen Long

“’Vagina’ is a metaphor for the bigger issue, says Long. “We can’t talk about sexuality in this country. We’ve created such taboos around periods, and such a problem around sex. It’s the pinnacle of taboo and it absolutely shouldn’t be.”

While sex in general is a difficult topic for Americans to deal with, Long says it’s even worse for women, which only further cements the need for a new conversation to emerge.

“We educated the world on male sexuality when Viagra launched and that was 17 or 18 years ago,” she says. “I think Viagra helped pave the way for the conversation about male sexuality and we haven’t had that with women. We haven’t talked about women’s health, period. Pun intended.”

Why should we put women in a place of shame in order to comply?

Despite the discrepancy, Long is focused on the future. She hopes to create a movement that will change the way we teach about female health, and most importantly, the way we address it.

“Ultimately, the goal of the campaign is to grow from a small group of entrepreneurs saying ‘enough is enough’ to include all of humanity,” she says. “It’s a human issue. We’re talking about sexual health and it’s no different than talking about the skin on our face. I really want to engage people in this dialogue, because if nobody starts talking about it, it’s going to be 1873 all over again.”

Belisa Silva

Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.

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