“Keep your hands off MI vagina”

As you likely already know, Representative Lisa Brown was banned “indefinitely” from the floor of the Michigan House last week, when, in response to a coordinated, all-out Republican assault on women’s reproductive rights, she said, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.” The story, as it’s being related online, is that Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas took offense at her use of the word “vagina.” Since the news broke, as you might imagine, the internet has been abuzz with comments from people who can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that, while members of the Michigan House of Representatives can apparently legislate what takes place inside a woman’s vagina, they can’t utter the word. Thankfully, this has given women’s rights advocates the opening they needed to start a dialogue with the women of Michigan about what House Bill 5711, if signed into law, would mean to them. And, now, we’re seeing the full creative forces of the left galvanizing around this issue. (See the images to the right, which I just took from Facebook.) And it’s building. Tomorrow, there will be a performance of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Michigan Capital… The following comes by way of Democratic fundraiser Laura Hornshaw.

On Monday, June 18th, Michigan Senators and Representatives will be joined by Tony Award winning playwright and V-Day Founder/Artistic Director Eve Ensler, as well as local activists and actors, for a special performance of Ensler’s award-winning play “The Vagina Monologues” on the Michigan Capitol Steps. The performance, which will take place between 6pm and 8pm, is part of an organized response to the recent banning of Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown from publicly speaking in the House…

Sen. Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D- East Lansing), Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), Rep. Barb Byrum (D- Onondaga), Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), Rep. Dian Slavens (D- Canton Township), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroit), Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), and Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing) will perform along with Ensler and local actors…

If you’re interested in more information, the Facebook page for the event can be found here. (So far, it looks as though close to 2,500 have RSPVP’d to attend.)

Brown, by the way, didn’t just blurt out “vagina.” The word was used in context. She was making a legitimate point concerning religious freedom, which, to my knowledge, has yet to be addressed by Republican leadership. Here, with more on Brown’s comments, is a clip from M-Live.

…“I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that HB 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and my religion,” Brown said in a Thursday press conference. “Or is it because I used the word ‘vagina,’ which is an anatomically, medically correct term?”

Standing with (Barb) Byrum, Planned Parenthood and several other House Democrats, Brown said that as a “committed and practicing Jew, I follow my faith’s teachings on women’s health issues.”

She said Jewish teachings say when a pregnant woman’s health and life are at stake, that woman’s life is the primary thing.

“As a Jew, I realize my beliefs are in the minority. I understand that many people hold different opinions and I respect that. It would never occur to to me to force my beliefs on someone else. All I did was urge my fellow lawmakers to extend to me that same consideration.”

Brown said she was stopped “from doing the very job I was elected to do.”

“Maybe my message of religious freedom didn’t sit well with the opposition. Or maybe they’re mad at me because I dared to say vagina, the correct medical name of a part of a woman’s anatomy that these lawmakers are trying to regulate.

“These lawmakers, predominantly men, have no problem passing legislation about my vagina. But I say its name, and they get outraged. I’m outraged that this legislative body wants to dictate what I can do, but what I can say”…

Thankfully, the story is getting some national traction. Brown was on MSNBC today. Here’s the video.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In addition to Brown, one other female legislator, Barb Byrum, was also stopped from speaking by the Republicans responsible for rushing this legislation through the House. Here, via the Detroit Free Press, is what Byrum said.

…Byrum was gaveled out of order after she protested when she wasn’t allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill that would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy…

Personally, I don’t think this has much to do with the V-word. While I like the fact that the “they can legislate it, but they can’t say it” meme has caught fire online, I don’t think, in reality, the men of the Republican party give a damn about the word “vagina.” In fact, I suspect they say it a lot, behind closed doors. (As we know, they love to throw around words like “cunt” and “whore”, so I don’t think it’s much of a reach to speculate that they probably enjoy uttering “vagina” as well.) No, I think this is all about control. This is about them wanting to shut down dissent across the board, so as not to impede the progress of their radical agenda. This isn’t about fear of one word, but fear of debate. This is about clamping down on the few remaining members of the opposition party, in hopes of obscuring the fact that, instead of passing legislation that might lead to job creation, our Republican majority is, for some bizarre reason, trying to do an end-run around Roe v. Wade, and deny the women of Michigan their rights, as spelled out in the Constitution.

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  1. Knox
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    I meant to put this here.

    “If you’re in Michigan, please join me in trying to use the word VAGINA as often as possible tomorrow.”

  2. Posted June 17, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    My friend Chris, who blogs at Eclectablog, has posted an interview he did with Eve Ensler. Here’s some of what she has to say. If you want to read the rest, you’ll find it here.

    I’ve obviously been concerned about what’s going on in Michigan for awhile and then this — I don’t know what we should call it — this “madness” started happening. Then someone asked me, “Would you think about doing a reading in Michigan as a protest?” I just that was such a brilliant idea so I said let me get in touch with them and see if it’s even possible because I only have one day off because my show opening next week. So I contacted [state Senator] Rebekah Warren and told her I would do anything I could possibly do to help and to turn this around. It’s just outrageous, what’s happening.

    We talked about the idea of doing a reading of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Capitol and she was completely into it and said that’s a great idea. I told her I could come on Monday because that’s my day off, she said, “That’s great”, and literally within, I would say four hours, the entire thing was organized!

    It really is amazing. And do you know why? Because I think we’re at a turning point moment. I think everybody feels it. This has just been going on too long, this shutting down women’s voices, the horribly reactionary attempts to control women’s bodies and to determine the boundaries of, not exactly their rights, but of their discourse now.

    I just think that the reaction is so amazing. I mean thousands of women have already signed up. I think it’s going to be an amazing turnout. I have people that are driving four hours to be there and are flying in.

    I really think it’s going to be the moment that we galvanize and really support the folks in Michigan because you have been battered, just battered.

    I hope she’s right.

  3. Eel
    Posted June 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    How would one go about working “vagina” into a workplace conversation?

  4. Edward
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I plan to just substitute “vagina” for “good morning.” I’ll let you know how it goes.

  5. Tom
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Uh, aren’t they trying to legislate the uterus not vagina?

  6. Megan
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    Tom – It’s all connected. In the grand scheme of things, the baby comes out of the vagina which is the opening to the womb. Doctors have to go through the vagina to even get to a fetus and it’s a very commonly catch all word for the entire area.

    Vagina everyone!!

  7. Dan
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I am going to use it in the place of Serenity Now.

  8. Elf
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Tom, the vagina is the gateway drug. It leads directly to uterus.

  9. shelley
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Uterus apparently was banned from being used on the floor of the House in Florida, about a year ago.

  10. Brainless
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I’m a little uncomfortable here. Can we just stop talking about women entirely?

  11. Demetrius
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Next step: Any comment other than those expressing unquestioning loyalty to deeper tax cuts, greater privatization and more deregulation of private enterprise (not to mention supporting a ‘literal’ interpretation of the Holy Bible) is hereby deemed contrary to the “decorum” of the Michigan Legislature — and therefore, banned.

  12. Mr. X
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Just so I’m clear, this is the same party that wants to weaken child labor laws, right?

  13. Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    This is true.


  14. John Galt
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    When Jesus wrote in the Constitution that there should be freedom of religion, he meant that people should be free to practice whatever form of conservative Christianity they wanted.

  15. Meta
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The Daily Show is on it.


  16. Alice Krum
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Okay Michigan friends, the word from the protest yesterday is that we need to call Governor Snyder TODAY!

    Tell him you to not sign the draconian anti abortion bill that was passed by both houses!
    If signed, Michigan would have the WORST abortion law in the country. Yes, worse than any state in the country.

    And remember, non Michiganders, the shit they are trying in MI, in WI, is coming to your state, if not already there!

    Expect to get a busy signal and have to redial it:
    PHONE: (517) 373-3400

  17. mrs. anonymous
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Jezebel.com has an article on Michigan. Guess what? It’s not positive.

    Here it is:

    Michigan Will Not Rest Until Everyone Is Offended, Pushes New Effort to Discriminate Against Gay People

    Most of the attention Michigan has been getting recently has to do with the word “Vagina.” Eek, am I going to get in big trouble for using that bad, bad word in public? The Michigan House is busy shooting for the stars when it comes to being unfriendly to uteruses. (You know, the things that can be found at the end of VAGINAS. Oops, I did it again.) But let’s not forget that they’re also up to plenty of other no-good things. Take, for instance, a bill that they just passed last week that would exempt students who are studying to be counselors and social workers from having to provide services to anybody that is doing anything which conflicts with the student’s religious beliefs.

    You can probably see where this is going, but basically this means that anyone who has the popular religious belief that homosexuality is wrong could refuse to provide counseling to a gay patient that came along. Certainly turning someone in need away—no matter what you think of their lifestyle—does not conform very neatly to any number of other religious beliefs like not hating people and not judging them. But what does that have to do with anything?

    Of course, this bill applies just to the time that students are in training and has no control over what happens once they’re in a professional setting. But as Zack Ford at ThinkProgress points out, “By advancing this legislation, Michigan lawmakers are essentially attempting to circumvent — if not dictate — counseling ethical standards.” That is a slippery slope if there ever was one, and the fact that they’re willing to set this precedent doesn’t bode well for the future.

    Though regarding the future of the Mitten State, perhaps it’s time to downgrade our expectations because promoting discriminatory practices is becoming a frightfully common thing there. They already banned domestic partnerships at the end of last year, and now they’ve banned the word vagina. So, you know, maybe they ought to just save themselves a lot of trouble and pass a sweeping bill that orders all living vaginas and gay people out of the state, effective immediately?

  18. Apathetic Andy
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    maybe this will be the thing that gets us off facebook and into the street for a half hour

  19. Lynne
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    It is very sad that the state I love has become a national laughing stock. I am so upset about this that I can barely comment on it. I will call Snyder. If he signs this bill, we can dispense with the idea of a moderate Republican in this state. I hope that is something people remember when they go to the voting booth.

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