December 26, 2020
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
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!
NOTE: She did! Use “penis” with pride in your comments friends. That right was hard-won.