Kourtney Kardashian came under fire on Thursday after her lifestyle brand, Poosh, published a tweet about “non-toxic” feminine washes and referred to the vagina as a "hoo-ha" and "yoni."
Users called Kardashian's word choice childish and "pathetic." Many said Kardashian's post was ill-informed, noting that it is unnecessary to use special cleansers for the vagina.
But the use of the word "yoni" to describe the vagina was ridiculous and problematic for another reason: It's cultural appropriation. Here's everything you need to know about what yoni means, and why should Kardashian should have thought twice before using it.
What Does Yoni Mean?
Kardashian's not wrong about what the word means — in Hindu culture "yoni" is a word that describes the female sexual organs.
Yoni is translated from Sanskrit as the sacred temple,” Sofia Sundari, a “mystic, tantrika and writer,” explains on her website. “And it refers to the female genitalia, vulva.”
Sundari says the word also represents a portal to life: “It is a place from where all life originated. It is a cosmic gate through which we all came here. It is the most feminine part of our body.”
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So Why Are Some People Upset?
But Kardashian using the term in her Twitter post points at a bigger problem — cultural appropriation. And it's not the first time the Kardashians have been called out on appropriating another culture. In June, Kim Kardashian used of the "kimono" to describe her shapewear line, and, last year, she was criticized for wearing Fulani braids on the red carpet.
In this case, the use of yoni can be likened to the cultural appropriation of the word "namaste." Critics, like Kiran Kaur, have pointed out that the commercialization of namaste — think of those $10 "namaste in bed" or "namaslay" t-shirts — is culturally appropriating a term that is intended for religious use by a specific group of people "who follow a particular path in life."
So, Now What?
As many of Kardashian’s followers reiterated, it comes down to the simple truth that it’s not necessary to refer to the vagina as anything other than a vagina. As Dr. Jen Gunter, MD told InStyle earlier this month: “I think that's part of it, just trying to get people to say those words.”
“The problem with sexual health is that we don't talk about it, and not talking about it is not an option,” the author of The Vagina Bible said. “If you can't say the word, then you can't describe symptoms to the doctor. If you don’t know the language, you can’t communicate.
Gunter continued: “Why we are not teaching this in school like we give driver’s ed — why aren’t we giving medical ed? If you don't have the right language, that is really oppressive.”
The gist of this one is pretty simple — leave the use of the word "yoni" to the culture it belongs to. Or as one Kardashian commenter noted:
Seems easy enough, right?
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