From CEO to Activist

How this Startup Founder Fuels Growth Through Social Activism

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Illustration credit: D Wang Zhao
Illustration credit: D Wang Zhao

I chose to become a therapist because I have always seen problems as opportunities. It was this same philosophy and the drive to create change in response to so many issues women face today that motivated me to make the career switch from therapist to entrepreneur. I saw the opportunity to become an entrepreneur as a way to use “the system” to create real and sustainable change through meaningful products.

As women, we face many stereotypes and despite so much progress, gender inequality is still very real. Cultural biases and self-assessment studies show women tend to evaluate themselves lower than reality, while men will evaluate themselves higher. The current movements for women’s rights, equality, and justice show women raising their voices in unison, calling out sexual harassment, organizing for unequal pay and women’s political representation.

Our current cultural climate has the opportunity to create balance and ultimately, do better by its women – Here’s how I became a social activist, created impactful products and am changing the stigma and inequality around women’s pleasure for good.

Learning How to Make Real Impact

Starting a business seemed to be the best way to make an impact and change the world around me. So I started Dame Products, a sexual pleasure, health & wellness company with the goal of eliminating the stigma around female sexuality and closing the pleasure gap. I envisioned empowering women by creating high-quality products that bring real value to their everyday.

I foresaw many things for the future of Dame. As an entrepreneur, I knew I would be an advocate for my brand, it’s messaging and products, but at the time I did not anticipate the vast amount of societal pushback I would receive when it came to products enhancing female pleasure. When your products are illogically viewed as harmful to society, as Dame’s products often are, you are no longer simply an advocate, you become an activist.

I couldn’t have predicted the exhaustion I would face from the daily responsibility of becoming an advocate for change of a very dated stereotype. At first, I could not understand female CEOs whose social media profiles burst with advocacy, it came across as excessive, even a little annoying. Now I completely understand, they are the ones who are frustrated from the constant battle thrust upon them: to not simply be an advocate for their product, but an advocate for real societal injustices.

Standing Up to Stigma

It seems a large part of our world forgets how many products exist to enhance male sexual experiences, and unfortunately, it appears a large part of our world is okay with inequality in the realm of sexuality and sexual pleasure. Well, spoiler – I’m not. With that said, I knew we had to connect with even more women who want equality in not only the bedroom, but everywhere.

In order to reach more people, we did what most businesses do – we created an advertising campaign. After months of planning the campaign with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), we received a short email before it was supposed to go live. It explained the authorities at MTA were canceling the campaign due to the “sexual nature of the products,” and my team at Dame could not help but be disappointed.

MTA’s denial of our ad campaign is a reflection of a larger societal problem that emphasizes penetrative sex while forgoing advertising that focuses on other forms of pleasure. Take a walk through any New York City subway station, or a ride on any train, and I guarantee you will see a multitude of ad campaigns that are filled with sexual innuendos for products meant to enhance the male sexual experience.

Fortunately, I choose to see problems as opportunities, and despite the disappointment, I couldn’t help but be reminded that as the CEO of Dame Products, I am more than an advocate for my products, I’m an activist, and just like any good activist, I am not ready to give up anytime soon. Here’s to crushing stigma, fighting for equality everywhere and creating balance in Women’s History Month and every other day of the year.

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