Republican Freak Out in Michigan: Don’t Say Vagina!Posted: June 18, 2012
It’s been a few days since Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown and her colleague Rep. Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were silenced by the Republican House majority for speaking out against a highly restrictive anti-abortion bill.
Republican males were so horrified by these transgressions that they punished the women by banning them from speaking on the House floor the following day–the last day of the legislative session.
A spokesman for Michigan Speaker James Bolger said in a statement that Brown would not be allowed to give her opinion on a school employee retirement bill Thursday because she had “failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”
Republican Rep. Mike Callton added that Brown’s remark went over the line.
“What she said was offensive,” Callton told The Detroit News. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”
Brown was punished for uttering the word “vagina”:
Brown, a West Bloomfield Democrat and mother of three, said a package of abortion regulation bills would violate her Jewish religious beliefs and that abortions be be allowed in cases where it is required to save the life of the mother.
“Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’” Brown said.
Byrum offended the powers that be by trying to introduce an amendment to the bill
banning men from getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man’s life.
“If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies,” Byrum told reporters Thursday.
You’d think these men would be embarrassed after turning themselves into a national laughingstock, but apparently not. The controversy continues. Today Lisa Brown will participate in a reading of The Vagina Monologues on the Capital steps in Lansing. She will be accompanied by other female legislators and a teenage actress from Howell. The play’s author, Eve Ensler is flying in for the occasion.
What is so upsetting about the word “vagina?” At the WaPo, Susan Thistlethwaite says the male fear of the female organ goes all the way back to Aristotle.
The obvious revulsion of these Michigan male legislators at the term “vagina” goes well beyond politics. If you really want to understand why some Michigan legislators find the word “vagina” disturbing and unsuitable for “mixed company,” you’ve got to go all the way back to Aristotle.
Aristotle thought women were more material (carnal) and men more rational (active). According to Aristotle, the fully developed human is male, and a woman “is as it were a deformed male” (Generation of Animals, 737a. 28). This has disposed western culture, and especially Christianity, to consider women’s bodies as profane rather than sacred, and thus by extension too offensive to talk about in public.
But wait, this isn’t the mid-fourth century BCE, the time when Aristotle wrote. It’s not even the Middle Ages. It’s the 21st century, and women will not sit still and have their bodily parts considered “disturbing,” while simultaneously being regulated without their consent.
And at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick has a suggestion for a new bill for Michigan Republicans:
The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate over what happens when women use their vaginas must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b)—a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.
The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will. Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.
Read the rest of the bill’s language at the above link.
Will any of this affect the Republican Party’s obsession with reversing women’s rights? Probably not, but I’ll bet some of their female constituents will be paying attention.