March 29, 2010

Speaking Our Voices - Thank You, Kotex!

If you have not already seen the U by Kotex commercials and website, we are thanking Kotex for taking the conversation about women and our vaginal and reproductive health to a whole new level.  Not only is their ad campaign catchy with electric colors, frank language, and the hysterical use of a stuffed beaver, but it provides a space for women to be real! Thank you, Kotex, for making this dialogue public, though sadly, this was all too much for T.V. networks to handle.  As a New York Times article reports, "after being informed that it could not use the word vagina in advertising by three broadcast networks, it shot the ad...with the actress instead saying “down there,” which was rejected by two of the three networks...It’s very funny because the whole spot is about censorship... The whole category has been very euphemistic, or paternalistic even, and we’re saying, enough with the euphemisms, and get over it. Tampon is not a dirty word, and neither is vagina.” 

In order to break this cycle, I believe that we adults need to give our children and especially young girls the correct language with which to speak about their bodies. This is critical! Learning to use appropriate language empowers girls and women to have more confidence and reduce shame around their bodies and in particular their sexual selves.

Even worse than not using appropriate language is the lack of recognition of "girl parts" to begin with. Think about the ways in which little children often learn about their genitalia.  A little girl says to her mommy, pointing to her brother's penis, "Mommy, what is that?" She responds, "A penis."  Then the little girl says, "So he has a penis and I don't?"  Mommy responds, "Correct."  This is all too often a true and detrimental scenario for a number of reasons.  Perhaps most detrimental is that the young girl just learned the concept of "lack."  Her brother (boys and men) have something (seemingly special and powerful) and she does not.  Her brother then learns that he has something that his sister does not and that makes him "better than."  This concept is something that these children will then carry with them throughout their lives.  Additionally, adults do not recognize children as having a sexual self, though from birth they are, in fact, sexual creatures.  A lack of communication about what children are already experiencing is providing a disservice shrouded in mystery and shame.  There's No Place Like Home and Birds + Bees + Kids are two of the many great resources for parents about their children's sexual education. 

Help us break the cycle of discrimination and violence against girls and women by raising a new generation of children who, through language and meaning, learn to respect one another! Have thoughts? Post a comment or email us.

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