I want to say one word: vagina. Well, okay, two words: vagina and uterus. No, this is not an homage to George Carlin. These are words that have been deemed beyond the pale by Republicans in Michigan and Florida and likely other places as well. They are also, of course, parts of the female anatomy.
Lisa Brown has a vagina. It is unlikely anyone would question this. She is serving her second term as state representative for Michigan representing the 39th district. As Adalia Woodbury reported here the other day, she found that out the hard way how Republicans feel about vaginas, her’s included. While addressing an anti-choice bill she said in front of a shared God (Brown is Jewish) and Republicans,
“I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours? And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”
She recounts her experience for CNN and you can watch the episode here:
You might remember too how early in 2011 state Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, got in trouble in the Florida legislature for suggesting that his wife “incorporate her uterus” to stop Republicans “from pushing measures that would restrict abortions” as the Tampa Bay Times put it. The Republicans “told Democrats that Randolph is not to discuss body parts on the House floor.”
Given a hefty percentage of Republican legislation since 2010 concerns women’s vaginas and uteruses, it makes you wonder how they manage to propose, let alone pass, so much anti-vagina and anti-uterus legislation without actually using either word. I would not care to speculate here on what words they might use instead.
But doesn’t it strike you as ridiculous that we should have to whisper those words like school boys and girls? They are, after all, only parts of the human anatomy. They’re not vulgar; they’re not slang. And though Democrats are not allowed to say them, are we supposed to believe that Darrel Issa and his fellow male bullies didn’t mention vaginas when they talked among themselves and barred Sandra Fluke or any other woman from offering testimony?
I mean, if vaginas and uteruses don’t concern women, what does?
It makes you wonder if they know where little Republicans come from.
A little biological refresher course for Republicans: all women have vaginas and uteruses and all men have penises and prostates. Without vaginas and uteruses and penises and prostates, there wouldn’t be any Republicans, which from all the evidence would not be so bad a thing. I would at least not be having to address their egregious stupidity today.
For a group that makes a big a fuss about free speech to curtail it in this way makes no sense. Obviously, they don’t really care as much about free speech as they claim. This is what they said about Lisa Miller exercising her right to free speech:
Rep. Mike Callton told the press that what I had said was so vile, so disgusting, that he could never bear to mention it in front of women or “mixed company.”
I don’t know about you, but I find misogyny and ignorance pretty vile.
Think for a minute what Callton is saying. You can’t even say “vagina” to a woman who has a vagina? A vagina is vile? I think that pretty says it all about the Republican attitude toward women, don’t you? I mean, is he afraid this will come as a rude surprise to his wife that she has a vagina, Rep. Callton? Or he thinks it’s just rude to rub it in?
This is what they had to say to Rep. Randolph when he said “uterus”:
House GOP spokeswoman Katie Betta: “The Speaker has been clear about his expectations for conduct on the House for during debate. At one point during the debate, he mentioned to the entire House that members of both parties needed to be mindful of decorum during debate.
“Additionally, the Speaker believes it is important for all Members to be mindful of and respectful to visitors and guests, particularly the young pages and messengers who are seated in the chamber during debates. In the past, if the debate is going to contain language that would be considered inappropriate for children and other guests, the Speaker will make an announcement in advance, asking children and others who may be uncomfortable with the subject matter to leave the floor and gallery.”
Do they think that pages and messengers and children and other guests don’t know, or shouldn’t know, that women have uteruses? I hadn’t realized growing up that the presence of a uterus in a woman was a big secret, some sort of unspoken shame, like having a vagina.
It makes me wonder how Republican women go to the doctor if they can’t bear to hear their doctor utter the words “vagina” and “uterus”. Of course, once the storm of outrage hit Michigan Republicans, they changed their tune, as Lisa Brown tells us:
As a storm of protest grew against our silencing and women across the state started to rally around my use of the word vagina, Republicans changed course. They insisted they had no problem with vaginas. Byrum and I were being punished for our lack of decorum. We were accused of throwing a “temper tantrum.”
As you can see from the video above, there was no temper tantrum, merely women speaking up for their own rights. The real problem is not even words like “vagina” and “uterus” but uppity women who think they have a right to have a say in their own healthcare; a modicum of control and ownership over their own bodies and reproductive functions. Likewise the men who defend them, like Rep. Randolph.
As Lisa Brown put it:
In the aftermath of this, Rep. Jim Stamas, whose job it was to issue the edict against me, said he “honestly had no idea it would become such an issue.” I find it amazing that a fellow legislator wouldn’t understand why it’s outrageous not to just silence me, but my 90,000 constituents.
But they don’t understand. As Raw Story reported, Michigan state Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R) said that silencing Brown and Byrum was like punishing a child:
“It’s like giving a kid a timeout for a day,” he told Lansing radio host Patrick Shiels. “You know, hey, timeout, you wanna comment too far, you spoke your piece. We’re gonna let these other people have their dissenting comments, and then we’ll get back to business.”
“You wanna comment too far” is how Rep. Schmidt and other Republicans view free speech. If you say something the GOP doesn’t want to hear, you’ve somehow violated an imaginary boundary in the First Amendment. Democrats do not have the right to disagree with Republicans in 21st century America.
And that’s what it’s all about – silencing. It’s not about free speech at all for Republicans. As with religious freedom, free speech to the Republican mind applies onto to Republicans. As I said the other day in my post about the Republican platform, the rest of us need to know our roles.
These episodes illustrate real Republican attitudes toward women and free speech, not to mention the democratic process. Lisa Brown didn’t know her role. Neither did Scott Randolph, who dared speak up in defense of his own wife and an issue that should concern only he and his wife, not a legislature or a distant church in Rome or anywhere else.
And so Republicans gave Lisa Brown a time out and they want to give all Democratic voters a time out in 2012 for daring to not share their vision for our future. So vote. While you still have the right.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.