“Vagina” is a forbidden word at the plaid-skirted and patriarchal St. Mary’s Catholic School in my new YA novel, Bad Habits. So much so, in fact, that my purple-fauxhawked rebel heroine, Alex, hopes to get kicked out of school for using it. But she also doesn’t get all the hullaballoo around the word—as she repeats in increasing frustration, “It’s the actual, biological, anatomically correct term!”

Bad Habits

Bad Habits

In honor of Alex and Bad Habits, here’s a list of seven common words we feminists need to stop tiptoeing around.


First and foremost! The sooner we push past our anatomical terminology awkwardness, the sooner we can tackle the real issues: our health, our identities, and taking joy in what our bodies can do.


It’s exciting to see people with periods around the world demanding access to sanitary products and considerations (Period. End of Sentence. was a fascinating watch for me!). But then there’s people like my character Mary Kate, who hides her tampons behind a giant bag of chips when she buys them. Let’s take a baby step forward by speaking words like “period,” “pad,” “tampon,” and “cramps” so others can hear them.


When I was first travelling by myself for work, I cringed using the phrase “for one” at restaurants, museums, or theaters (even when I’d practiced saying it in the local language!). But after discovering the thrill of hiking a mountain solo, savoring a delicious meal with no one to steal my fries, and perusing used book shops at my leisure, I learned to declare proudly, “Yes, just me!” Because – at least in English – “alone” does not equal “lonely”!

4. NO

It’s every toddler’s favorite word…so when do we lose the ability to say no? Whether it’s working overtime, doing favors when we’re already drained, or accepting invitations automatically, we need to perfect the polite (or not-so-polite!) refusal.


Okay, so we hear this all the time. But when I first saw unique greeting card companies like Boss Dotty Paper Co. redefining milestones, I realized it was long overdue. For years, celebrations have revolved around marriage and families. What about…congratulations on your promotion! Congratulations for starting therapy! Congratulations for that book rejection (I’ve had hundreds), because it means you were brave enough to try.


Look at the scene from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in which Midge scurries out of bed to put on her makeup before her husband wakes up. For years, women have been expected not just to look perfect, but also to look like they’re not trying. In reality, we don’t always look good, and we don’t always feel good (now more than ever). It’s time to talk about it.


Different styles, different abilities, different body types, different definitions of the word “family”…all these things make life so rich and interesting. If there’s anything we learned from 2020, it’s that monotony gets old realllllly fast. So vive la difference!

What are some other words you wish people would proclaim proudly in all-caps? Comment below!