Lisa Brown, silenced on the Michigan House floor, helps read ‘Vagina Monolgues’ on statehouse steps

Dale G. Young AP Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, from left, Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, playwright Eve Ensler and Sen. … Continued

Dale G. Young

AP

Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, from left, Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, playwright Eve Ensler and Sen. Rebecca Warren, D-Ann Arbor, during a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” on the Michigan Statehouse steps.

Michigan women legislators and their supporters refuse to be silenced.

In the latest push back against the one-day silencing of Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga by House Speaker James Bolger
, they and several others performed The Vagina Monologues, a play about how women are sexually oppressed, and how they can resist and heal, outside the Capitol
.

Several thousand people flocked to the Capitol lawn to hear these women and the play’s author, Eve Ensler, who flew in from California for the occasion.

Rep. Brown has said she was punished by this silencing for using the word “vagina” in a floor debate over a draconian anti-abortion bill. In an opinion piece for The Detroit News
, Rep. Brown talked about her speech and her colleagues’ reaction:

“I used that word because we were debating a women’s health issue. Vagina, by the way, is the correct medical name of a part of women’s anatomy lawmakers want to regulate. My statements were within the rules of the House and were clearly appropriate in relation to the bill we were discussing.

“One of my counterparts, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said ‘vagina’ is such a disturbing word that he would never deign to use it in the presence of women or ‘mixed company.’ This, from a man who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.”

The obvious revulsion of these Michigan male legislators at the term “vagina” goes well beyond politics. If you really want to understand why some Michigan legislators find the word “vagina” disturbing and unsuitable for “mixed company,” you’ve got to go all the way back to Aristotle.

Aristotle thought women were more material (carnal) and men more rational (active).  According to Aristotle, the fully developed human is male, and a woman “is as it were a deformed male” (Generation of Animals, 737a. 28). This has disposed western culture, and especially Christianity, to consider women’s bodies as profane rather than sacred, and thus by extension too offensive to talk about in public. 

But wait, this isn’t the mid-fourth century BCE, the time when Aristotle wrote. It’s not even the Middle Ages. It’s the 21st century, and women will not sit still and have their bodily parts considered “disturbing,” while simultaneously being regulated without their consent.

Almost instantly a Twitter feed appeared from the ACLU, and a Facebook page..  “VAGINA. Can’t say it? Don’t legislate It” is the message.  And, even if you can say it, in my view, if it’s not in your biology it’s not your call. 

And, of course, this outrageous action by the Michigan House led to the performance of the play, The Vagina Monologues.

The Vagina Monologues have given voice to the way in which women are suppressed through their sexuality, and to the affirmation of women’s equality that includes all of their sexuality. Ensler started writing the series of monologues in 1996; they are drawn from women’s real experiences of sexual violence, relationships, and healing, and new ones have been added over the years.  On “V-Days”, a global movement to end violence against women, the play is often performed as a fund-raiser.

The Detroit News (
quotes a press release from Ensler:

“‘Censoring a woman for saying a word that is a body part that 51% of their constituents have is a repression that we have not and should not ever witness in this country.”

Well, we are witnessing it, over and over.  The repression of women, the denial that women are deserving of equal dignity and respect with men, rooted in revulsion at their bodies, is on the rise once again in American politics. 

In this moment, it is crucial to point out that treating women’s bodies as profane is fundamentally at variance with what the Bible actually teaches.  In Genesis, women as well as men are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), and the whole creation, including the human body, male and female, is called “good” (Gen. 1:31). 

Aristotelian biology has warped and distorted the biblical views on both the goodness of the human body, and the God-given value of women.  Today, Christian theology, as well as western culture, needs to leave behind these legacies of Greek philosophy. 

Treating women and their bodies not only as unequal, but as profane, is at the root of the so-called “war on women” in contemporary political life that deprives women both of respect and equal treatment under the law.

Not only should an extreme “anti-woman” bias be considered bad from a Christian theological, and western cultural perspective, therefore, it also makes for incredibly bad politics.  A blog post on the American Civil Liberties website points out the voter backlash from what happened in Virginia when the legislature there took the “war on women” to an extreme. 

Dale G. Young

AP

Rep Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield reads her part during a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”

“According to a poll released this spring, voter approval for the governor and legislature plummeted among both men and women and across party lines. According to the poll, this is the first time the Virginia Legislature has ever received a “negative grade” from Virginia voters. The poll also revealed that 72 percent of Virginians do not want the government using its resources to interfere with a woman’s personal and private decisions about abortion.”

Note to the Michigan legislature and legislatures throughout the U.S.: do you really want to be this extreme and risk this kind of backlash?

Women are equal to men in body, mind and spirit.  Their vaginas, as well as the rest of their bodies, are good and not an object to be legislated against their will.   This “war on women” needs to stop.  It is un-American and unbiblical.

 

The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a professor of Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary. She wrote this article for On Faith
.

  • Dakota57

    I’m not sure why but I was dumbfounded when I first heard about this. Actually left speechless for a time. Looking back its just one more chapter in what has been a consistent unveiling of the elected Republicans disdain for the female gender of our country.

    I have no idea why the women of America aren’t linking arms, even across party lines, to protest in massive numbers across the nation against this path toward horrific reductions in our rights as American citizens but.

    We are NOT a lesser class of people because of our gender!

    I never, ever, want to hear another elected Republican talk about defending freedom or upholding our Constitution.

  • persiflage

    Expunging past comments from a working thread is a good way to kill it – as On Faith has done here. There were about 50 posts here before they all mysteriously disappeared.

  • immigrant1

    For me it is a matter of respect for the other gender. I personally would never bring up the subject in front of women except in very few situations. If women started talking about men’s private parts in front of me, i would definitely feel uncomfortable. The few cases where it would be acceptable would be in professional, medical and private situations, even then I would feel uncomfortable in mixed company. There may be a few cases where it would be appropriate that I may have not included.

  • SODDI

    They are in an older article, searchable.

    In the case of the WaPo coments section, suspect glitchery, not f**kery.

    However, they still won’t let us commenters use the word “v*g*n*” even though the article is about the word “v*g*n*”.

    It’s pretty funny.

  • SODDI

    If The State is legislating what a woman can do with a certain part of her body, then the males legislating it dern well oughta be prepared to hear the names of those body parts.

    IT’S THAT SERIOUS. With all due deference to your delicate sensibilities.

    Do you have the same problem with phrases like “drone strike” and “collateral damage”?

  • cricket44

    “I never, ever, want to hear another elected Republican talk about defending freedom or upholding our Constitution” Or “small government.”

    Their hyprocrisy is truly revolting, Dakota, I agree.

  • cricket44

    If the “offended” male in question had *any* respect for the other gender, he wouldn’t be trying to legislate them back into the category of chattel.

    It’s beyond asinine to bring up this legislation and then cry “sensitive” over factual remarks regarding it.

  • quiensabe

    As a Conservative Christian, Susan, with like-minded friends from California to New York to Washington, DC, to Regent University in Virginia, I have never heard one of them make a disparaging remark about women. On the contrary, I have associates who are liberals to do not hold this same view.Your imagined war of women from the right is ill-placed.

    May I also point out that the ACLU has been historically anti-Christian. So, in that respect, if you are garning information from their web site, I would suggest that you find another. After all, Susan, you represent Jesus Christ for rest of us and I admonish you to take that responsibility seriously, not only for women, but for fellow believers many of whom are men.

  • cricket44

    I seriously question what you would bother to consider “disparaging” so that statement isn’t worth much. The war on women from the Right is not imagined, at all.

    “May I also point out that the ACLU has been historically anti-Christian.”

    Then you ignore the work they have done on behalf of Christians.

    Shameful, and you have NO right to be admonshing anyone else.

  • nkri401

    ScottinVA,

    For all these people you say have problems with the word – what are they going to do when they find out that’s through which they all came to this world?

  • srpatterso

    When did the Democrat Party become populated by irrational, insane kindergarten children, always pretending to be “oppressed” as they very publicly display the exact behavior they are shrieking that they are being “oppressed” about?

    Absolutely pathetic. And a clear example of why there is no compromise with these people. You can’t compromise with a self-absorbed, ego-centric, totally out of touch with reality moron.

  • persiflage

    I was just saying the very same thing about republicans. Talk about a coincidence! Probably some kind of cosmic synchronicity.

  • persiflage

    ‘That takes the whole article into the realm of sensational propaganda based upon a Feminist lie.’

    You mean that all the women of the world that don’t know their proper place according to a 2000 year old collection of fables and ancient history …….. are liars?

    Times change – where have you been, Scottie?

  • RandyT

    Watch the shiny object. The Democrats are destroying the economy and you should ignore the fact. What comment by Clarence Thomas led to his high tech lynchng based on the accusations of one woman? Your hypocrisy has been made apparent by your own words.

  • quiensabe

    Well, cricket, you should read the POST’s screed by the ACLU today. Seems like they (ACLU) thinks the First Amendment must go since some religions, especially Christians, think homosexuality is a sin. They’re going after the Catholic Church since Catholics discriminate against folks, like homosexuals and women. Seems like it’s a civil rights issue with them. You know, like homosexuals are born that way the same way a person is born with pigments.

  • TotalRecall

    Now, these idiots want to play like they did something innocent. She used the word to disparage the republican lawmakers. She is guilty and she should be barred from speaking!

  • TTWSYFAMDGGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO (IRT)
    SUSAN THISTLETHWAITE
    EXTREME ANTI-WOMANISM

    IRT: “Treating women and their bodies not only as unequal, but as profane, is at the root of the so-called “war on women” in contemporary political life that deprives women both of respect and equal treatment under the law.”

    ANS: The National Organization of Woman manufactured an ongoing conflict to exploit a self-made contrivance without substance in order to create a prefabricated effect that women were being demeaned and deprecated. Led by the likes of Betty Friedan, women lost their celebrated feminine mystique. They won a license for freedom and lost their dignity.

    The failure of the NOW movement was transmogrified into the degradation of such organizations as NARAL. Radical feminists won a license that gave women a right to murder their unborn, gave the playboy an escape from responsibility, and gave fruit to the Sexual Revolution that climaxes in the Culture of Death. Women lost their pedestal their apotheosis. Women wanted to be treated as men and to their detriment in the workforce so they were.

    Now they are victims of their own contrivances. They are treated equal in marriage and divorce; now are the weaker sex expected to compete physically with men.

    Feminism has been impugned; consequently, contraceptives are declared a health benefit when they are carcinogenic and dangerously emasculating to their health. Children, a gift from God, are viewed as a disease, and therefore, like disease, they can be exterminated.

    Extreme anti-feminism is a mother having her unborn murdered; being assaulted by carcinogenic contraceptives, being set up for Obama Embryonic Stem Cell Research exploitation, the assault of women in Egg Retrieval portends risks of increased ovulation causing possible infertility, or a loss of ovaries from hyper-stimulation, or organ damage or psychological stress,

    No longer are women expected to be mothers, but mother workers in the Public Square. Namely, their work load has been bolstered. N

  • PhilyJimi

    Well, quiensabe some people have religions where eating meat is against their rules. Are you suggesting all Americans should be forced to stop eating meat because it offends this religious group(s)?

    If you belong to a religion you’re free to follow the rules of that religion no matter how silly you or I think they are. The followers of any religion can’t expect anyone else to be forced to follow their rules. We are protected from majority religions because the government can’t take a side on any religious manners. Otherwise the majority would force the minority to obey their rules/laws. If you want to label it being “anti-Christian” go ahead but it is protection for non-believers and non-Christians from the majority.

    If you want to worship a bit of rabbit dung as your god and savior well please feel free to do so but don’t force me to respect your ideas just because you call it your religion. Too often just because someone calls it their religion they expect everyone to back off and “respect” their bigoted ideas/rules.

  • mhenriday

    «“One of my counterparts, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said ‘vagina’ is such a disturbing word that he would never deign to use it in the presence of women or ‘mixed company.’ This, from a man who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.”» I do hope the WaPo will pursue this matter further and enlighten readers as to just what Mr Callton does call the organ in question «in the presence of women or ‘mixed company». That should indeed make fascinating reading !…

    Henri

  • twmatthews

    Scott, it seems to me that republicans are at ease when describing late term abortions, replete with images to drive home the point. They only seem sensitive when talking about or more precisely, letting someone talk about, anatomy when that discussion contradicts their preconceived notions.

    The cries for protection for their sensitive ears ring hollow when these same republicans describe the pain and suffering the unborn undergo during an abortion.

  • SteveinOhio1

    ScottinVA, you keep spouting off about “shock value” as if that is supposed to shut down debate. There are some people who will need to be shocked into paying attention, such as the MI legislators who insist on regulating womens’ sexual lives without realizing how profoundly insulting such actions are. It looks like you’re the one insisting on muddying the waters here.

  • persiflage

    I think the ladies simply got the oriface wrong…….the south side of an elephant going north would have been more accurate.

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