Just when you might have thought the war on women was calming down, the Republican leadership in the state of Michigan decided to go after the V-word. That being, vagina. In fact they came so undone when a female member of the Michigan House of Representatives said the word, they banned her from speaking again.
As a result, they got to hear the V-word shouted out 100 times from the capitol steps by thousands of vagina-friendly protestors who rallied in Lansing to support Lisa Brown, the silenced lawmaker.
I’ve seen The Vagina Monologues performed at least four times and it is a difficult, often painful experience. The difficult part, however, is not hearing the word vagina. What make you weep are the real stories of girls’ and women’s bodies being abused, exploited and politicized.
But in Lansing, Michigan the Vagina Monologues took on new meaning, the word unintentionally liberated by the very people who it offended.
“Vaginas are here to stay,” declared Ensler.
It all started when State representative Lisa Brown, a Democrat, spoke out in the Republican-run House against a hotly contested abortion amendment that would cripple women’s health clinics in Michigan. After denouncing the measure for taking away women’s rights and inflicting religious beliefs into a medical procedure, Brown summed up with, “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”
Well, that was too much for the speaker James Bolger who said Brown’s vagina talk was out of line, a breach of decorum and barring her from further speech. His scandalized cronies agreed, one stating that vagina is so disturbing a word he would never say it to a woman or in mixed company.
He didn’t explain what he might say instead. “Down there,” maybe?
It was ridiculous and silly. But also frightening because these are not just everyday men who get squeamish talking about lady parts. They have the power to not only dictate what a woman does with her body but also, apparently, what she can say about her body.
As Lisa Brown explained, “I used that word because we were debating a women’s health issue. Vagina, by the way, is the correct medical name of a part of women’s anatomy lawmakers want to regulate.”
Outside the capitol in Lansing the chant was, “If you can’t name it, don’t legislate it.”
Now, why would a bunch of adults in charge of running a state grab for the smelling salts upon hearing the word vagina? Did they miss junior high health class? Do they think that the bodies they’re so eager to put laws on belong to blow-up dolls and not real women? Are they afraid, repulsed, fanatic or just plain stupid when it comes to dealing with women?
Brown was not the only female Democrat lawmaker muzzled in Michigan. Barb Byrum was gaveled into silence after she introduced a bill on vasectomies that would require men to have to prove their lives were in danger in order to get one. Her obvious intent was to hold men and women to the same standards when seeking legal voluntary procedures in reproductive health.
As she told the Lansing crowd, she was silenced, “for standing up for women.”
Meanwhile, a group of Catholic nuns set off on a national bus tour to protest what federal budget cuts will do to poor families. They too would not stay silent. They too stood up to the male powers on high, as in the Vatican, one of those other V-words.