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Michigan Lawmakers and Scary, Scary Vaginas – A Reflection of National, Woman-Controlling Politics

June 15, 2012

So this happened.

Rep. Lisa Brown (Democrat) said the word “vagina” on the Michigan House floor, in the context of making remarks opposing a set of anti-abortion bills. As punishment for using the medically correct term and a spirited mood when opposing the legislature’s attempt to control Michigan women’s bodies and limit their ability to make their own reproductive decisions, Brown and another female Democratic Rep (Barb Byrum) were prevented from speaking on other legislation. Members of Brown’s district were denied the input of their elected representation, because a bunch of dudes don’t ever want to have to hear about squicky vaginas and how they aren’t actually their property.

Brown had concluded her remarks in opposition to the bill with:

I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” she said. But what came next is what got her in trouble: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’

One male Republican Rep, Mike Callton, reportedly responded:

“It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

Got that? The actual, correct and proper anatomical name for a part of a cis woman’s body, and it’s inappropriate to say *to women.* I think that tells you something, not just about how ignorant some of these folks are about women’s bodies, but about their underlying attitude that women, and their bodies, are somehow dirty and inappropriate for “mixed company.”

Nevermind that this is the accepted proper, medical language generally – somehow this man, and his fellow Republicans – who appear to be overwhelmingly male – decided that it was an offense worthy of preventing this woman from speaking in the House on another legislative issue. They decided it was gross and inappropriate to hear the word “vagina,” even while attempting to control women’s bodies.

If a word for a woman’s body part is so offensive to these male Republican legislators in Michigan, imagine how “inappropriate” it seems to them for women to actually have control over their own bodies and reproduction.

Rep. Brown responded to the ban:

“Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office. I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion. Or it is because I said the word ‘vagina’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it.”

This is not happening in a vacuum, folks. It’s not just Michigan being silly. It’s part of a much wider context in which women’s bodies are viewed as controllable but women’s authentic voices aren’t considered appropriate, in which women should effectively be seen and not heard. This is bigger than Michigan and abortion – it’s about a concerted effort, nationwide to win votes by controlling women and pandering to those would do the same. Anti-abortion folks who think this is just about “saving babies” are completely naive – the silencing of these Representatives on the Michigan House floor demonstrates that the agenda is not as simple as “saving babies” – it’s about controlling women’s behavior, and silencing dissent.

[More: I can’t embed it, but there’s a clip with Brown from Rachel Maddow Show. But it’s a guest host, if you were hoping for a Rachel fix.]

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2012 11:42 am

    I’m just glad that lawmakers are starting to point out how all this legislation serves inter alia to establish a religion — I think we may be able to get a lot of the legislation rejected as unconstitutional, because, as I’ve pointed out for years, it does so blatantly infringe on the abilities of Jewish physicians and Jewish women to follow the tenets of Judaism. And I’m glad that lawmakers are starting to speak up about the ulterior motives of legislation like this. I just hope it isn’t too late to get people of good will to listen.

  2. June 20, 2012 3:22 pm

    Why doesn’t she go after religous groups who are pressuring their law makers to ban abortion? They are the ones that are interested in controlling her vagina, not the house speaker.

    • June 21, 2012 7:39 am

      Interestingly, Michael, women are not only able to have opinions about more than one person/group at a time, but her comments were in the context of speaking against the results in the legislature of that pressure to restrict abortion.

  3. June 22, 2012 4:03 am

    This both infuriates me and humbles me all at once! It angers me that this male domination and preoccupation with controlling and silencing women still continues, even in these modern times – which we have long striven to render more equal. Women have been fighting to assert their place in society for centuries and these Republican men must feel that the last bit of control they are able to have over women is passing laws and judgement on reproductive issues.
    Rep. Lisa Brown dealt with this in the most dignified, honest and humbling way.
    I have long been of the opinion that religion and the law have no business being associated. Muddied waters all round. To pass laws based on any one religious faith or belief is the most backward and dangerous thing! No two people have the exact same religious views and why should any one belief be imposed on others?? You’re right, the abortion issue has never been about ‘saving babies’ but of attempting to regain control over women’s bodies after the last decades of ’emancipation’ that have seen men such as this Republican nightmare take a back seat in women’s decision making.

  4. June 22, 2012 12:14 pm

    Let’s start a Kickstarter campaign and raise funds so we can commission Aunt B to make a crochet vagina for each member of the Michigan House.

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