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Letters from a Vagina in Michigan

June 21, 2012

Reflecting on my experience of the Vagina Monologues at the Michigan State Capitol, I started to wonder what Speaker of the House James Bolger thought of this. After all, it was his decision to bar Reps. Brown and Byrum from speaking in the House,  that we  were protesting against.

So I decided to write him a letter.

Dear Speaker Bolger,

I was saddened by your decision to bar Representatives Byrum and Brown from speaking on the house floor last Thursday. I have seen the footage from the house floor last Wednesday, and would consider Rep. Brown and Rep. Byrum’s behavior to be in keeping with the “decorum of the House of Representatives.” They were passionate, and yes, angry, but I personally want my representatives to fight to get their voices and amendments heard.

I am a woman who grew up here in Michigan. I get passionate sometimes and sometimes I get angry. Many women* are particularly heated and passionate about the issue of abortion access in this state. I hope you can understand that this is because it affects our bodies, our choices, and our health directly, so many of us have strong opinions. It worries me that if you can’t respect your colleague’s voices when they speak out on this issue, that you won’t be able to respect mine or other women’s throughout the state when we do. I am worried about your ability to represent women in your district if you’re not able to listen to them.

I believe it was an inappropriate reaction to gavel Reps. Byrum and Brown out of order, and to bar them from speaking the next day on important state issues. By silencing these two representatives, you also silenced all the citizens in their district, and for that, I think Michigan citizens deserve an apology.

I’d love to hear a response from you. There are clearly many people like me who were very upset by these actions, as seen by the thousands that turned up to the capital on Monday night. I would like to know how this response affected your opinion of the situation, and your plans to follow-up with the many concerned (and angry) Michiganders.

Thank you,

[Full Name]
[Address]

Although Speaker Bolger made the decision, there were many other representatives who supported his decision fervently, or tacitly by not speaking out against it. There were also those who took it to the next level by openly mocking Reps. Byrum and Brown on the radio.

Rep. Wayne Schmidt: “It’s like giving a kid a time out for a day. Hey, ‘Time out…’”
Host Michael Patrick Shiels: “Time outs, temper tantrums — makes women angry, hah hah hah…”

I decided to write this idiot a letter too.

Dear Representative Schmidt,

I was saddened by the audio I heard from your recent interview on Michael Patrick Shiels’ radio show. You showed a lack of respect for your colleagues in the House of Representatives, as well as for women in general. I have seen the footage from the house floor last Wednesday, and would not consider Rep. Brown or Rep. Byrum’s behavior to be equivalent to a temper tantrum. They were passionate, and yes, angry, but I don’t think those things equate to acting childish, or deserving of a “time out”.

I am a woman who grew up here in Michigan. I get passionate sometimes and sometimes I get angry. Many women are particularly heated and passionate about the issue of abortion access in this state. I hope you can understand that this is because it affects our bodies, our choices, and our health directly, so many of us have strong opinions.

It worries me that if you can’t respect your colleague’s voices when they speak out on this issue, that you won’t be able to respect mine or other women’s throughout the state. I am worried about your ability to represent women in your district if you’re not able to listen to them. And beyond that, that you have turned their passion for this issue into a joke.

I urge you to reconsider the way you have spoken about your colleagues Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, and to look at the ways your words about women on the radio disparage the women in your district and across the state. I would love to hear a response from you on how you plan to address the concerns of women in your district in the future.

Thank you,

[Name]
[Address]

I do not expect responses because I am not in these representative’s districts, but I’m hoping someone will read them. I am working on writing my State Senator, Rebekah Warren, a thank you letter for setting up the Vagina Monologues performance with Eve Ensler. I want to let her know that right now, she’s doing it right.

Hey, by the way, if you’re not in Michigan, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have really restrictive abortion bills working to be passed or icky reps who call women cunts, whores, and children. Thisslutvotes is documenting oppressive legisaltion across the country – get writing!

*I’d like to note here that I did think about the decision of whether to use “women” or more trans-inclusive language in my letters. I wanted to make sure I was very clear and that I wrote to the representatives with terms they would understand. Writing this post now, I’m not sure whether it was the right decision to do so. I would be interested to hear your opinions.

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