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What? We Can’t Say ‘Vagina’?

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What? We Can’t Say ‘Vagina’?

Tell me it isn’t true. Rumor on the street has it that TV networks have banned a tampon company for making an ad that uses the word “vagina.” Um, how exactly are we supposed to talk about tampons without using the word vagina? And what’s wrong with that? Vagina vagina vagina! (Okay, did I just sound like a defiant little kid? Good.)

Apparently, after this infamous tampon ad was banned from three networks, they re-shot the ad and replaced “vagina” with “down there.” Even with this change, two networks still wouldn’t run the ad. Which means they made a tampon ad without ever once referencing the female genitalia. I mean…duh, people. That’s like making a beer ad without ever referencing the mouth, lips, or tongue. Vaginas are where tampons GO.

Two Steps Back

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the company ended up killing the ad. Back to the drawing board where feminine hygiene commercials are made about women in running on the beach with billowing white scarves, with no references to any part of the female anatomy.

Once I cooled down after reading about this, I started thinking. Why are we so freakin’ afraid to talk about what makes us uniquely female? I mean, seriously. Every single human being on this planet came out of one of those things we’re not aloud to name on network television. The vagina is the source of all life, the portal of pleasure, the living, breathing heart of the world. But oh no. Don’t even think about saying the word out loud. What gives?

Why Do We Get Squeamish?

First, a disclaimer. Yes, I’m an OB/GYN physician who wrote a book called What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (on shelves next week! pre-order now! yahoo!). I actually wanted to name it Coochie Confidential, but my publisher wouldn’t let me. I was told I could use the word coochie — or vagina or any other reference to the female genitalia — anywhere I wished within the text of the book. But not on the cover. Oh no. Not on the cover. “Down there” was suggestive enough. I said, “How ‘bout Pussy Power?” (Tee hee.)

So yes, I’m probably more comfortable with vaginas than the average human. I’ve delivered other women’s babies through them. I’ve done Pap smears inside of them. I’ve operated on them. I write about them. I’ve changed my daughter’s diapers. And I’ve probably witnessed over 100,000 of them in all of their feminine glory throughout the course of my lifetime. I even have one of my own! So maybe I have a special perspective in feeling horrified that we’re not allowed to use the word vagina on television. But I doubt I’m alone.

Not so sure? Do these words make you feel uncomfortable? Are you one of we socially shy ladies who wasn’t raised to talk about your girly bits? Maybe your mother called it “Front bottom” or “wee wee” or “down there.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t stop the madness and call it like it is. Vagina. Vagina. Say it with me. VAGINA. (You know you’re grinning right about now, even if you are squirming in your seat.)

But it’s more than just a game, friends. Language is a key part of empowerment. How can we be empowered to BE whole, beautiful beings who claim our femininity if we can’t talk about it?

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Read more: Guidance, Health, Inspiration, News & Issues, Uncategorized, Women's Health, , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
11:17AM PDT on May 13, 2014

VAGINA!!! :)

12:32AM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

Thank you :)

1:40AM PDT on Oct 7, 2012

Vagina is a much nicer word than some other horrific words used in its place.

4:49AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:11AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Can't say vagina, can't say penis, can't say..........! Can say erectile dysfunction (what's dysfunctioning? ). America seems to be the only country thats ashamed of the human body.

8:47AM PDT on Aug 12, 2011

Thank you

9:28PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

As I was picturing your Book Cover..I had the strangest vision of a the raging shade of purple...used to cover DA you think they'd go for it?

2:25PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

Language has so many restrictions in society. It's pretty sad.

10:58AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

My 24 year old daughter brought me this story: She and a group of her friends went to their favorite bar on a Thursday night. When they went to pay the cover charge, the bouncer at the door told them 'No cover charge, it's Ladies Night.' Without a pause, one of my daughters friends threw her hands in the air and shouted 'Yay...go vaginas!!' When I was 24, I would have died on the spot, and probably been thrown out of the bar. Now, I thought it was possibly one of the funniest things I'd heard.

3:05PM PST on Nov 28, 2010

I don't have a problem with vagina, or penis, but what I do dislike is the constant bombardment of commercials for feminine hygiene products, erectile dysfunction pills, enhancement lube, etc. etc. Just my thought, for what it is worth.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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