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Updates from a Vagina in Michigan

June 18, 2012

“What she said was offensive. It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.” – Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville)

Vaginas in Michigan have had an interesting week, so I thought I would share some of what’s been going on over here. Trying to use as many local sources/opinions as possible, to give you some sort of spirit from the ground.

Background:

It all centers around Michigan House Bills 5711, 5712, & 5713, sometimes referred together as the “anti-abortion super bill”. Planned Parenthood calls it an omnibus bill “that would essentially end access to abortion in Michigan.” (More details on the bills here)

On Wednesday, HB 5711 (the major portion of the super-bill, although not the one with most controversial legislation – a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks, with no exception for rape, incest, or health – which is HB 5713), but not before heated debate. Catch some of the badassery here. Some highlights:

“Stop having sex with us, gentleman. Find somebody else to do it with. I ask women across Michigan to boycott men until these bills stop moving out of the House.” – Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit)

“These bills purport to protect women, but will force women to self abort in unsafe conditions because the clinics will not be there,” – Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon)

“Finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.” -Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield)

This last bit got Lisa Brown barred from speaking on the house floor (Full speech here) along with Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) . In a statement by a spokesman for Speaker Bolger, they were barred because they had “failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”

Rep Barb Byrum was  not allowed to speak on her amendment to the bill that would have required proof of a medical emergency or that a man’s life was in danger before a doctor could perform a vasectomy.

“I was ignored by the majority floor leader and not allowed to speak on my amendment which would have held the same standards for men and women when it comes to legal, voluntary procedures in reproductive health and now I am being silenced for standing up for women. This is yet another example of this Republican majority’s misogynistic and cowardly tactics.”

What People are doing

Obviously, some of us were pissed about what’s going on in the house!

  • The ACLU is on it, and quickly came up with great reproducible signs. They, like many other groups, are encouraging writing your elected officials regarding the issue:

  • EVE ENSLER obvi will not take this silencing of “vagina” and is flying out to Michigan today to hold a special performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Michigan Capitol Building. So far, the cast includes Eve Ensler, along with: Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield), Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing), Rep. Barb Byrum (D- Onondaga), Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes (D-Saginaw), Rep. Dian Slavens (D- Canton Township), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D- Detroit), Rep. Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills), Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing), Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods) and Rep. Maureen Stapleton (D-Detroit)
  • At the Slutwalk in Detroit on Sunday, I saw many people with the ACLU signs, heard “vagina” chants & screams, and an organized anger about the issue.

My Thoughts

I do have some concerns. There’s some conflation here of vagina & vulva and vagina & women. I don’t think this imprecise language is trivial. I worry that in organizing around VAGINA, we leave out women without vaginas, and people with vaginas who are not women. I also worry that in making our actions & protests purely centered on VAGINA, we fail to link this issue to the larger patriarchal structure that seeks to control ALL non-cis-male bodies.

I also hope that concern over intersecting oppressions regarding reproductive rights are not left out & lost. That we don’t continue to recognize and challenge the way these bills disproportionally affect the poor and people of color. I hope we don’t fail to see the connection between the silencing of two Representatives in the MI state house and the silencing of marginalized people & communities throughout the state who will be affected by these bills.

Overall,I’m glad people are pissed, and I’m glad people are talking about it. People are posting about it on facebook, telling each other about it, and asking how do I take action on this NOW?

For those who are local, I suggest you find your rep: http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/, and tell them what you think. Found out today that mine is pretty cool:

“I am not sure what happens to Republicans when they are sworn into office, but as far as I know none of them were granted medical degrees. If Republicans want to stop abortions, they should pass legislation aimed at preventing unwanted pregnancies such as real sexual education.” Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)

For those who aren’t local, I also suggest you find your rep, and tell them what you think about reproductive rights/reproductive justice. I’m embarrassed to say that although I knew about the “super-bill”, I didn’t take any action to share my opinion, and like many, was blindsided with everything that took place this last week in my legislature.

That’s all I’ve got for now! Heading to Lansing later today to see the Vagina Monologues performance and I can give you an update on that later!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Allison permalink
    June 19, 2012 9:43 AM

    I think “vagina” is particularly relevant, not as an exclusive signifier of womanhood, but of people who can become pregnant (the group to whom this bill pertains).

  2. June 20, 2012 2:08 PM

    Great post. I made a handy chart that details why vaginas are not terrorists. You can check it out here: http://rubberchickensociety.org/2012/06/20/at-least-she-didnt-call-it-her-witch-hole-the-bajingo-liberation-front-comments-on-republican-fear-of-the-v-v-v-v-vagina/ Keep on rockin’!

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