Vagina, vagina, vagina! It’s an anatomical word, just like foot or elbow or kneecap, yet somehow it’s not allowed to be spoken of in the halls of our government. Say what?!
Despite being elected the same way their male counterparts are, women in Congress are being silenced. A lawmaker in Michigan was banned from speaking for using the word “vagina” on the floor of the state House.
The clearly foul-mouthed woman in question, Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown, was taking a stand against a measure that would restrict women’s abortion rights in her state. When Brown took the floor to speak to her overwhelmingly male counterparts, she asked why her religious freedom as a Jewish woman (whose religion supports abortion to preserve the life of the mother) had to be sacrificed just to appease their religious beliefs. She closed with the zinger, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.” You can check out her full speech here–it’s kind of awesome:
Her speech caused such a stir that she was forbidden from speaking officially at all for the entire next day. But it gets worse, girls. Not only was Brown barred from speaking, but part of why she spoke out in the first place was because 10,000 petitioners weren’t allowed to take the floor already. That makes 10,001 voices silenced because people are scared of the word “vagina” and of the women who wield them. If Brown were to have come out and said the C-word instead of vagina, well, that’d be a different story. Jon Stewart covers this beautifully:
Brown used the proper term for a particular body part, not a profanity or Urban Dictionary slang. There was nothing vulgar or offensive about her statement whatsoever unless one finds the word “vagina” vulgar or offensive–in which case, should they he or she really be in a position to legislate on what goes on with one?
While at first Brown’s opponents didn’t deny that the word “vagina” was what led them to shushing her, they later came out and insisted it was actually the “no means no” part that pissed them off, citing it as a rape reference. While rape is a traumatic and terrifying experience for anyone to go through, think about it this way: It’s a violation of a woman’s rights and, often, a vehicle for misogyny and assertion of male dominance. One can argue, then, that impeding Brown’s opportunity to speak about her own vagina and what goes on within it is, in a way, an assault on her as a woman–effectively, a rape of her rights to freedoms of religion and speech. Maybe that’s the point she was trying to make.
That said, following her punishment, Brown wasn’t going to sit down and take it. She and powerhouse feminist author Eve Ensler took to the steps of the Michigan state House to perform The Vagina Monologues in front of 2,500 people. Ensler said it best when she told press, “If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion … was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men’s terror of women’s sexuality and power, I think it’s fully evidenced here. We’re talking about the silencing of women, we’re talking about censoring people for saying a body part,” she said. “Half of these people who are trying to regulate vaginas, they can’t even say the word.”
Whether you agree with abortion or not, the barring of our right to choose whether to have one and what goes on with our own bodies sets a really dangerous precedent in regards to other rights: Like our freedoms to practice whatever religion we want and to say terribly naughty words. You know, like “vagina.”
Do you think Lisa Brown was out of line? Do you think Michigan’s House was out of line to censor her? Tell us in the comments!