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Thanks to me, you can say “penis” in the Washington Post commenting section.

December 26, 2020

Vickery Eckhoff

Getting “penis” into the commenting section of this Washington Post article was a hard-won achievement.

For most of its recent history, the Washington Post included “penis” among the “one or more words that violate community standards” in its commenting sections. You could say “grab ’em by the pussy” and “vagina” but not, uh, that.

But on May 15 of 2019, the policy was changed and I want y’all to know … you’re welcome.

Below, the letter that changed everything, sent in response to a May 7, 2019 article about Georgia governor Brian Kemp signing one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the nation.

May 15, 2019

Dear Emily,

I deeply appreciate your and Ms. Cha’s coverage of the ‘heartbeat bill’ passed by Georgia (and your use of single quotes in your headline).

As a woman and a journalist, I’m highly annoyed by the disingenuous terminology used by the bill’s supporters, something I got used to when writing about public lands policy and the meat industry for Forbes, and later, Newsweek. (I’ve also been published in the Times, but on a different subject).

But ‘heartbeat’ makes me see red — because the real body part being protected and privileged here isn’t a heartbeat. It’s the penis.

I was unable to comment thusly to your article, however, because the WaPo blocked it for having “one or more words that violate community standards.” The word “vagina” didn’t violate those standards, however.

I left the exact same comment substituting the word “vagina” for “penis” in another comment that sailed right through. (PS: I did this test several times, just to be sure). Perhaps this is an oversight on the WaPo’s part, but I wrote Teddy Amenabar (the WaPo’s comment editor) about it and have heard nothing about changing this imbalance.

Today, on another yet article on abortion (Alabama’s extreme ban), I again tried to use the word “penis” and was blocked. “Vagina,” however, was again approved.

Now, not only are women’s reproductive rights and privacy being pried apart for men to freely comment on, handle, mishandle, control, troll, take a personal stake in, and BAN outright, but we can’t even mention the penis that enters the vagina during a rape or consensual sex or incest or every other kind of heterosexual sex that ends up leaving a woman pregnant, wanted or not.

It infuriates me that men, even in commenting sections (basically the only place where women get to voice their opinions in a community setting), get to maintain a sense or personal autonomy, privacy and distance that woman do not.

I want to be able to call a heartbeat bill a “penis bill” if I so choose. And to use the word penis as freely as we hear vagina, uterus, fallopian tube, ectopic pregnancy, “grab ‘em by the pussy,” etc.

Can you help right this wrong with the Washington Post? And can you please share this with Ms. Cha (I was unable to find her email)?

Thanks so much for your good work!


Vickery Eckhoff

NOTE: She did! Use “penis” with pride in your comments friends. That right was hard-won.


Post a comment
  1. Sandra Sell-Lee #
    December 26, 2020

    BRAVO!!!!!!!!!!! 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

    “Seek with the Soul…See with the Heart”

    “Peace is not merely absence of violence, it is the presence of justice.” -Corey Booker Sent from my iPad


  2. mdenisemullen #
    December 26, 2020

    Congratulations, Vickery. Not only is the right to use the word gained by your efforts but a more correct description of these bills and actions. Thank you!

    Sent from my iPhone, please excuse typos.


  3. Maggie #
    December 26, 2020

    Well about time!  Have read your many articles on our wild horses and have appreciated so much the light you shine on them but this “penis” victory is as good!  The many attempts (some successful) at banning abortion really pisses me off to put it bluntly, but honestly being able to comment in some media areas truthfully is a big start to fixing this whole issue that seems to be an issue mainly with older white men!

    Thank you, Vickery for making these efforts!

    Maggie Frazier

  4. Linda Moser #
    December 26, 2020

    Well done. It is infuriating that somehow, even in a supposedly enlightened publication like WaPo, that the rights of men are a given and the rights of women are a constant battle.

  5. Becky Rader #
    December 26, 2020

    About time! Thank you for sharing 😊

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Barbara Sunblade #
    December 27, 2020

    Thank you, Vickery! 🤣🤣🤣

    Sent from my iPhone

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