Feminist Friday: Two Michigan Democratic Reps banned from speaking on the floor, Lucy Lawless pleads guilty to trespass


This Week in Your Vagina
I’m not going to lie to you, ladies: The state of Michigan has gone flat-out insane over your vagina. Regular readers of this column know that normally I would have used the fun and useful term “ladybits,” but the time for euphemisms has passed.

Thursday was the last day of the legislative session of the Michigan state House of Representatives, but Democratic Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were not allowed to speak. House Republicans banned them from speaking on the floor because the good reps had said such very scandalous things on Wednesday.

Lisa Brown

Photo courtesy of Brown’s official House web page

Barb Byrum

Photo courtesy of Byrum’s official House web page

Brown’s horrific, horrific speechcrime involved saying – please do brace yourselves, and perhaps bite down on a leather strap or a bullet – the word “vagina.” And, no, she didn’t say it during discussions of a sidewalk renovation bill or something. She said it during debate on a massive anti-choice bill. You know the weeks and weeks of depressingly long entries in the first section of this column in which I catalogue all the ways far-right conservatives (the only kind that can actually get elected nowadays) are trying to lock up our nation’s vaginas and uteri? Michigan’s anti-choice bill covers all of them. We’re talking abortion bans after 20 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, insurmountable restrictions placed on doctors and clinics, a requirement that doctors pry into their patients’ personal lives, and a requirement that doctors arrange for any fetus over eight weeks to be buried, cremated, or interred.

Brown, who is equal parts angry and awesome, made some very good points, including pointing out that members of her Jewish faith have a different perspective on abortion than far-right Christians, but that she isn’t trying to impose her faith on the rest of her state, unlike some legislators we could name. 

She ended with the statement “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’” which is what got her banned from speaking on Thursday. Brown points out that “vagina” is the correct, grownup term for a part of the female anatomy that is extremely relevant to the legislation in question, and that people who are so frightened of women and their plumbing that they cannot bear to hear the word “vagina” should probably not be passing laws about it.

I mean, really: Would you listen to any legislator anywhere who insisted on calling a budget “the big, you know, money thingy?” What are we supposed to call these kazillion anti-choice bills now? “Hoo-hoo” bills? “Precious Flower” bills? “You-know-what-we’re-talking-about” bills?

On second thought, don’t give them any ideas.

Byrum was banned from speaking for saying “vasectomy,” or at least for being so unladylike as to suggest that maybe we should regulate those with just as much personal prying and hoops to jump through. Or do Michigan House Republicans just hate V-words? Someone call them up and start talking about veal vampires or vibrating violins and see if they freak out.

Michigan Representative Rashida Tlaib didn’t get banned from speaking, but she did go all Lysistrata on their asses and suggest that the women of Michigan stop having sex (with men) until the members of the GOP stop being medieval jerks. Welcome to AfterEllen, ladies.

Rashida Tlaib

Ezra Klein, guest hosting for Rachel Maddow last night, had more.

One of the best developments to come out of this infuriating state of affairs is that the good people of Twitter decided that if Michigan legislators weren’t allowed to say “vagina,” then by golly Twitter would say it for them. A lot.

Laughing at oppressors can be fun.

Just as infuriating are the barely covered revelations that Native American rape victims are often denied emergency contraception by Indian Health Services workers – and some have even been shamed and sent away. Read the full roundtable report to get your indignation up, and then you may want to sign that change.org petition linked above. Native women on reservations suffer a shockingly high rate of sexual assault – about 1 in 3 – but not all IHS pharmacies even carry emergency contraception.

This Week in Argh

The anti-LGBT, anti–marriage equality group the Minnesota Family Council is using a loophole to avoid revealing their donor list. Which makes it easier to launder money for them. Not that you should be writing strongly worded letters to your state and national reps about regulating money in politics or anything.

This week in Interesting

Jezebel wondered why everybody is hating on Solange Knowles’ natural hair. As luck would have it, Melissa Harris-Perry seems to be about to drop some knowledge on that topic. 

Lucy Lawless pled guilty to trespass for boarding an oil-drilling ship off the coast of New Zealand to protest. I love it that she’s a bad-ass in real life too. Lawless faces up to three years in prison. Say the word, Lucy, and we’ll bust you right out of there. Or at least send you plenty of care packages.

The Crunk Feminist Collective ran a great essay on the Creflo Dollar scandal and the church failing its female members.

Nuns! Are! Back!

This week Rush Limbaugh, who must just paste money over his bathroom mirror so that he doesn’t have to look himself in the eye in the morning, called the American nuns who have been pushing back against the Vatican “Feminazis.” Again: One of the main reasons these nuns are tangling with the Vatican is that they want to focus on helping the poor. Does Rush even assign meaning to the words that come out of his mouth anymore, or does he just use some sort of random dipwad vocabulary generator?

Lawrence O’Donnell is also a fan of feisty nuns, and he had Sister Simone Campbell on to respond.

This Week in Awesome

The wonderful women of Frangela smacked down a jerky hashtag game with extreme prejudice.

The Arab Spring is far from over – and now it’s Arab women who are rebelling against the routine street harassment they’re subjected to by men. Part of the work involves encouraging women to speak out and shame their harassers instead of letting it slide as normal behavior. The women of Egypt have created Harrassmap to warn each other about where assaults are happening, and Farah Hobeissi of Nasawiya, a Lebanese feminist group, runs a campaign called The Adventures of Salwa. You want to see these.

The Mary Sue showed us a portrait that may be of a young Jane Austen. She does look just the right shade of witty.

Have a very vaginal weekend. Get out there and show them what you’re made of.

Including vagina.

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