On Anatomically Correct Language, Vaginally

This news stunned me. Literally.

June 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

Michigan reps silenced for use of ‘v-words’

Comments about sexual parts, procedures during abortion debate cause controversy

  • By Chad Livengood
  • Detroit News Lansing Bureau
  • 48 Comments

Lansing — House Republicans tried to silence two female Democratic lawmakers Thursday for floor outbursts a day earlier referencing male sterilization and a female sex organ.

The majority party prohibited state Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor Thursday after she ended a speech the day before against a bill restricting abortions by referencing her female anatomy.

“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’ ” said Brown, D-West Bloomfield.

State Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, also wasn’t recognized to speak Thursday for a disturbance she caused on the House floor Wednesday when the GOP majority wouldn’t allow her to propose a ban on men getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man’s life.

Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland, made the decision to prevent Brown and Byrum from speaking on any of the slew of bills the House was racing to pass before adjourning for the summer.

As the party in power, the Republicans can decide who gets to speak and what issue — just as the Democrats did to them when they were in power two years ago.

“My concern was the decorum of the House, not of anything she said,” Stamas told The Detroit News.

“I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far yesterday,” he said.

Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, gaveled Brown out of order for saying “no means no” — because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape, House GOP spokesman Ari Adler said.

“It has nothing to do with the word vagina,” Adler said.

Some male Republican representatives, however, said Brown’s comments were vulgar, “inappropriate” and “offensive.”

“What she said was offensive,” said state Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville.

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

During a Capitol press conference Thursday, Brown noted “vagina” is the “medically correct term” for the female organ at the center of the Legislature’s ongoing abortion restriction debate.

“If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Brown said. “What language should I use?

“We’re all adults here.”

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, would not address the controversy that had become a national news story by late Thursday.

“I think we’ve made plenty of comments about her inappropriate behavior,” Bolger said.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” Thursday night, Brown maintained she did nothing wrong.

“I followed the House rules,” said Brown, noting the incident has helped her raise campaign donations.

Democrats said the GOP’s action was more evidence of Republicans trampling women’s rights.

“The war on women in Michigan is not fabricated — this is very real — and it comes at the highest levels of state government,” said Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing.

Whitmer made the comment in a YouTube video appearance with state Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, posted Thursday in response to the House abortion bill.

As the controversy brewed Thursday, Republicans launched into public relations damage control, emphasizing Byrum and Brown could speak in the future as long as they abided by the rules.

“As a woman and mother, I was personally offended by Rep. Lisa Brown’s disgraceful actions during Wednesday’s floor debate,” state Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, said in a statement released late Thursday.

After passing a bill with new regulations for abortion providers, the House tabled another bill Wednesday that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks with a narrow exemption for the life of the mother.

Byrum indicated she wants to give men the same treatment House Republicans proposed for women who may be unable to terminate an unwanted pregnancy under House Bill 5713.

House Republicans also wouldn’t let staByrum speak on the House floor Thursday.

Byrum, D-Onondaga, caused a disturbance on the House floor Wednesday when she wasn’t allowed to introduce an amendment to the abortion regulations 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 said.

When House Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, wouldn’t recognize Bryum to propose her amendment, she began shouting at him and stormed out of the chamber.

“You should have let me speak. … I represent the same number of people you do,” Byrum told Walsh.

From The Detroit News:http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120615/POLITICS02/206150373#ixzz1xtly27z0

Regardless of where you stand on the abortion issue, or even this bill, the events that transpired should ignite an anger somewhere deep inside you. (Even my cervix is enraged.) This goes far beyond abortion.

The word “vagina” may scare people, but that’s because those people are cowards.

During a Capitol press conference Thursday, Brown noted “vagina” is the “medically correct term” for the female organ at the center of the Legislature’s ongoing abortion restriction debate.

“If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?” Brown said. “What language should I use?

“We’re all adults here.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120615/POLITICS02/206150373#ixzz1xtoxbqTT

Adults? I don’t think you should be an adult to know words like “vagina.”

When I was two (or not quite two), my little brother was born. My parents brought him home. Apparently, I started anatomy lessons early. While my mom was changing his diaper one day, I asked her what “that” was. When she told me, I went down the hall saying, “Penis, penis, penis”  over and over again. She laughs when she tells the story. “You weren’t going to forget that,” she says.

My family wasn’t scared of anatomically correct words, and rightly so.

I hardly think that understanding the proper words for referring to “private parts” are going to cause children to become immoral beasts. But then again, the way certain members of the GOP are pushing their agenda of ignorance, you’d think that they’d rather have us never mention those words at all. (…because we’ve been so great at stopping kids from accessing information in general with the advent of the internet, and all).

Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, gaveled Brown out of order for saying “no means no” — because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape, House GOP spokesman Ari Adler said.

“It has nothing to do with the word vagina,” Adler said.

Some male Republican representatives, however, said Brown’s comments were vulgar, “inappropriate” and “offensive.”

“What she said was offensive,” said state Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville.

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

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120615/POLITICS02/206150373#ixzz1xtpz9k84

What? Vulgar? The word “vagina”? I bet Callton is a real hoot at dinner parties. What else makes his list of vulgar words? Here’s a great list of words that sound dirty but aren’t.

The feminist who lives inside me is begging me to rant about the choice of diction in Rep. Callton’s statements. Firstly, “mixed company” generally (although I’m sure that at some point, it will be proposed that we amend “mixed company” to include only men and fetuses) includes women, and most of those women have are in possession of a vagina. They probably aren’t scared to say it.

I don’t just casually drop it in conversation, but then again, I generally don’t drop other anatomical parts unless necessary. “I seriously bruised my coccyx yesterday.” Or, “They had to X-ray my pelvis for signs of bone deterioration.” (I don’t know, it could happen.)

Having someone refer to “vagina” as vulgar is insulting. Women have spent the better part of human history being associated with dirty and unpleasant connotations because they possess them. To say that saying “vagina” is offensive is offensive to me. (Say that sentence three times fast.) As a human, I am not offensive. My vagina is not offensive. It’s not vulgar, or crude. It’s a part of who I am. It’s a part of half the United States (give or take a few). Ask Georgia O’Keeffe; she – albeit only potentially, and even then, only subconsciously – totally got it.

Marketers spend billions of dollars telling woman that we’re offensive, that we’re unclean, that we’re not perfect, so I’d prefer to not add the stress of having a legislator reinforcing that message.

Attempts at “respecting” women by legislating their personal choices and keeping them from hearing words like vagina are very reminiscent of a time not so long ago when women weren’t allowed to vote. Or own property. Or get divorced. Or refuse to have sex with their husbands.

Tell me I’m jumping to conclusions, fine. But I fear that we’re regressing. I fear that this county, which once stood for freedom and progress, now stands for freedom and progress…for a select few. And sadly, I don’t see myself as being included in those select few. I’m a woman. I’m an educated woman. I matter. When a member of my gender is discriminated against and sanctioned for standing up and speaking her mind, I will take offense.

Oh, speaking of sanctions…one of the motives given for barring Lisa Brown from speaking was “…concern was the decorum of the House.” Ha, well it’s not like she interrupted a speech or anything. (I’m talking about you, Joe Wilson.)

Disgusting. (More or disgusting than a vagina, obviously.) This trend of legislating against women is one thing, but the trend of silencing our voices is worse. It’s a grave offense. Limiting our ability to speak on issues that obviously pertain to us is oppressive.

Oppression, you say?

I’m going to stay away from the whole sexuality deal today, because this post just got long, but let me remind you that abortion has a root cause. And that’s usually sex. Consensuality (not a word, but whatever) and other issues aside, sex that causes pregnancy involves a man and a woman. Man and a woman. This is not just on the women. But I am obligated to at least remind you of the slut-shaming that happens before, during, or after sex. Sometimes no sex is involved for such insults and categorizations. Women’s sexuality is scary.

I googled this cartoon (because it has lived in my mind for a long time), and came across this post, in a blog called “Obliged to Offend.” The last paragraph of this post says, “Female sexuality can at times be subversive and powerful. It is for this reason that many men feel threatened by the presence of a woman expressing it. They feel that she has the greater degree of sexual choice and power so they try to control or dominate her. This is not, as some believe, confined strictly to the remnants of old-fashioned male sexism or the devout followers of monotheistic religion. Beauty and sexuality are a threat to orthodoxies of all stripes because they are an expression of our animalistic ancestry which cannot be levelled out or extinguished by force. Political creeds, however emancipatory their rhetoric, are also very often rationalisations of deeper emotional problems.”

It is my opinion that we are currently experiencing a wave of backlash resulting from the feminist movements that marked the late 19th and 20th centuries. We see women becoming more and more powerful. We are more educated, more involved in the workforce, and more independent.

In the search for equality, we have unintentionally upended the traditional male roles. They are lost, confused, unsure. (Not all, but quite a few. Trust me, I’ve been dating since I was fifteen. I have considerable experience interacting with them.) Marriages are declining, and they’re happening later. Now that women are focusing on their careers and their whole selves, they are less inclined to find a husband and procreate as soon as possible in order to meet hegemonic expectations for a normal family structure and life trajectory.

Personally, I still strive for a husband. And children. And that whole traditional white fence dream. But I’m determined to find someone who respects the shit out of me, who supports my decisions and my dreams, and who wants the same things out of life that I want. For me, there is no problem with combining female strength and wife-ness. (I’ll need some serious help or at least compromise on the traditional wife duties, though. I can’t clean to save my life. Or cook.)

I’m sorry that the root of this mad legislating and silencing and anti-women rhetoric might lie in the fear of powerful women (hence the emphasis on the cultural breakdown of the traditional family structure and the fervent attempts to rectify these perceived wrongs and immorality), but I’m not sorry. Just as women have had to adjust, compromise, and grow in order to accommodate their new opportunities (we still end up doing most of the housework and child-rearing; we just have to do it after we get off work), men should do the same.

Masculinity doesn’t have to be defined by the ability to produce income. Or the ability to dominate or control a woman. Masculinity can be a lot of things. Men should, well, man up and get to work figuring out how they can come to terms with women playing ball on their level. Because women aren’t going to stop fighting for equality, for respect, for rights. At the end of the day, we are all human beings with feelings and individual strengths. We need to work together in order to achieve any sort of forward progress.

But let’s start by being able to say “vagina.” Baby steps.

 

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