But there’s only a million reasons the penises of the world shouldn’t be making laws about body parts they don’t have. Was that an antagonistic statement? Definitely. Was Democratic Congresswoman from Michigan Lisa Brown going for shock value when she used the term “vagina” on the floor in June 2012? Maybe. When faced with restrictive abortion laws Brown spoke up, with a closing statement that exploded with controversy.
Republican representative Mike Calton responded by telling The Detroit News,
“It was so offensive I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I wold not say that in front of mixed company.”
After all, it is not as if ‘vagina’ is a medically and politically correct term….only, wait. It is. So is penis for that matter. Could it be that the word ‘vagina’ makes men so uncomfortable, makes the act of abortion so humanized, that they can’t bear to hear it uttered?
Brown shocked her fellow congress-people so thoroughly that she was forbidden to speak on a unrelated education bill the following week. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Democratic representative Barb Byrum was later prohibited from presenting her view that the anti-abortion bill (it passed 70-39 by the way) would be the same as criminalizing a man with a vasectomy unless it was a medical emergency. Women might be allowed to be a part of congress, but what good is it when we cannot speak on our own behalf? The entire situation brought back bad Pussy Riot memories.
Brown herself couldn’t believe that such a “simple house speech” turned into a pressing matter of debate.
“If I can’t say the word ‘vagina,’ why are we legislating vaginas? What language should I use?”
What to do when you are banned from talking about your vagina? Call Eve Ensler of course! After all, Ensler’s play (later published as a book), The Vagina Monologues, has been saying things about vaginas that others have been scared to say since 1998.
“I bet you’re worried. I was worried. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them.”
On June 18, 2012, Eve Ensler joined Brown and various Michigan performers in a reading of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Michigan Capitol building, spurred on by thousands of enthusiastic onlookers chanting, “Vagina, vagina, va-GI-na!!!”
The psychological and political implications of such a gathering were not lost on Ensler, who said,
“We’ve seen the power of saying the word ‘vagina.’ We’ve seen how it’s freed women from their shame and empowered them to break the silence and become leaders in their communities. By saying the word ‘vagina’ and making it okay to say the word “vagina’ we take away the fear, humiliation, and myth that surround it. Censoring a woman for saying a word that is a body part that 51% of their constiuents have is a repression that we have not and should not ever witness in this country.”
On this October Saturday, make it a point to align yourself with the example of Brown and Ensler. Say ‘vagina’ in conversation, hell, say it in front of “mixed company.” If people are so offended by the term, let’s find out why, and change it. Now more then ever, in a time where our presidential candidates are largely ignoring the needs of women, collective action is needed to preserve and strengthen our role in the political sphere. And until we reach an agreement on the abortion front, we are going to keep talking about vaginas, vaginas, and more vaginas.