Why are men so afraid of vaginas? They appear to like the sexual organ itself—who wouldn’t?—but the mere vocalization of its anatomically correct name triggers abject fear, bordering on revulsion. At least in Michigan.
Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown, a Democrat, made headlines last week when she was banned from speaking on the floor of the House after using the V-word in her remarks against a bill severely restricting access to abortions.
“I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,’” she said.
This caused immediate shrinkage among the boys in the Republican majority, who labeled her reference as a breach in the chamber’s dickorum, er, decorum. It was so offensive, one legislator told the Detroit News: “I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”
I don’t know Rep. Brown personally, but I respect her vagina. So do thousands of others, including Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, who joined the savvy politico last night on the steps of the capitol in East Lansing, to recite the monologues.
Labias of the world, unite! Well played, Lisa Brown.
I happen to love Vagina Monologues, and not just because I am of the Sapphic persuasion. As a local “celebrity,” I performed in two professional productions, both at the Annenberg Theater. In each run, I was accompanied by two card-carrying actresses from New York.
Vagina’s first monologue addresses “vagina” as a word, and the silly nicknames it inspires from women. In Philadelphia, it’s a “split knish,” Ensler writes. In Miami, a “Mimi.” In Great Neck, a “pussycat.”
Other references, culled from Ensler’s interviews with hundreds of women of all ages, races and economic status: pooki, powderbox, peepe, poopelu, poonani, dee dee, labbe, cooter, VA, wee wee, mongo, pajama, tamale, and tottita, among many others.
Cute, no? And far less hostile than the typical expressions favored by men, such as cunt (the go-to insult), snatch, camel toe, gash, twat, trim, pussy, beaver. You get the picture.
To men, vaginas can be mysterious and unknown, and therefore threatening. Unlike penises, vaginas are not always open for business. They operate in the deep interior, hidden from view, holding secrets of pleasure and potential motherhood. Respect must be paid.
Which is why I’m puzzled by the mishegoss in Michigan. What could possibly be wrong with saying “vagina” in a debate about abortion? I’m no expert, but isn’t the vagina where the procedure begins and ends? Doesn’t every voting woman in the Wolverine State have a vagina?
Perhaps the male Republican lawmakers in Michigan would be more comfortable with “lady parts,” or with that old standby, “down there.” That way, the boys and their brittle pee pees won’t have to encounter the scary word—in theory or, I suspect, practice.
Instead, I suggest slowly de-sensitizing the men of the Michigan statehouse to the word. Let them hear “vagina” over and over, especially in inappropriate contexts. “Good vagina morning, Mr. Speaker.” “I would like to vagina second the motion.” “Fourscore and seven vaginas ago … ”
Eventually, “vagina” would become just another word to the GOP, like “veto” or “recess.” And the debate could continue on a new plane, with grownups who can call a spade a spade or a vagina a vagina.
That, Mr. Speaker, is what is called serious pussy power.