Friday, June 15, 2012

VAGINA: it's a technical term, stupid.

American Heritage Medical Dictionary

vagina  va·gi·na (və-jī'nə)
n. pl. va·gi·nas  or va·gi·nae  (-nē)
  1.  The genital canal in the female, leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus.
  2.  A sheathlike anatomical structure.

Collins World English Dictionary

1. the moist canal in most female mammals, including humans, that extends from the cervix of the uterus to an external opening between the labia minora
2. anatomy, biology  any sheath or sheathlike structure, such as a leaf base that encloses a stem

State representatives in Michigan:

" . . . so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."

During a heated debate on the floor of the Michigan state House, Rep. Lisa Brown made an impassioned speech against a bill that seeks to put new regulations on abortion providers and ban all abortions after 20 weeks.

Brown, a Democrat, argued that her Jewish faith allowed for therapeutic abortions when the mother's life is in danger without regard to length of pregnancy.

"I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?" she said. But what came next is what got her in trouble: "And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"
 Here's a more complete account:

And here, a great commentary from the British newspaper The Guardian.

Which ends thus:
To be honest I quite like that the worst swearword in the English language is derived from the fanny-fou-fah – and that there are a lot of offensive words for vagina; but vagina isn't one of them. Of course if Brown had referred to her vulva, I would have grimaced. Who wants their fun tunnel to sound a clapped-out car? But whatever accurate or euphemistic term is used for women's genitals, the aim is for legislators to distance themselves and refuse to acknowledge the intimate nature of their regulation. Yes, all of these examples are from the US where abortion continues to be a blue touch paper issue. But it is only a matter of time before these tactics swim the Atlantic and are deployed in the UK.
It is important that the visceral vocabulary of women's bodies is part of the abortion debate. It is difficult to imagine true equality for women when our internal organs are a public space. It is necessary for them to abstract women out of the debate otherwise they may find that forcing a woman through the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy or putting her life at risk by leaving her no other choice than an unsafe abortion, might make them look somewhat vicious. 
I'm all for fanny euphemisms. But when an elected representative cannot get up in a legislative chamber and refer to vaginas in a debate about women's health then we are risking uterus erasure. I say no to rubbing out the red snapper. It's time for us to shove our growlers in the faces of the anti-choicers and demand that they chow down on our bodily autonomy.
PS: Here is a nice compilation from the paper we used to refer to as the Lansing State Urinal of comments from various journalistic sources. It includes a video of the report on the Rachel Maddow Show, which gives some of the details of the truly horrific bill.

You can also go directly to the Rachel Maddow link:

If I still lived in Lansing - not that I would ever want to live in Lansing ever again - I would be down at the Capitol on Monday at 5 pm as Vaginas Take Back the Capitol:


Alice said...

I stand and applaud.

Sue said...

Let us hear it for and FROM vaginas everywhere!!!


Anonymous said...

Obligatory link: