Woman legislator in Michigan barred from future debates for using the word "vagina" in abortion debate

Michigan state rep Rep. Lisa Brown intervened in a debate about a pending abortion bill in which she used the word "vagina," for which she was censured, and prohibited from participating in some future, unrelated debates. She was not the only woman legislator prohibited from speaking during the debate. Rep. Barb Byrum was barred from introducing her amendment requiring men to prove that their lives were at risk before they were allowed to have a vasectomy.

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 my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"

The Detroit News reports today the House Republican leadership did not allow Brown to speak on a bill about the retirement of school employees.

Michigan State Rep Barred From Speaking After 'Vagina' Comments (via MeFi)


  1. If I could I’d move to Michigan and run for state office and, hopefully, win, just so I could go on the legislative floor and say, “Vagina!” three hundred times.

    Then I’d run for Congress and go to Washington and start my first speech on the floor with, “So…who here is from out of town?” 

    1.  Say “vagina” 840 times, and  you can claim artistic immunity: it’s a performance of Erik Satie’s “VeXXXations”.

      (If 840 is too many (or too few), an unspecified number of repetitions could constitute a performance of La Monte Young’s “XXX for Henry Flynt”.)

  2. People who can not handle hearing the word vagina need to be banned from making laws that effect them.

      1.  “Affect” is correct in this instance, but both “effect” and “affect” are BOTH nouns and verbs.

        Effect a change, have an effect, display an affect, affect a display.

        1. Affect is to influence or be influenced, effect is to cause or to be caused.  It’s easy to confuse because the line isn’t always clear.  A scary movie can affect you, but it can also have the effect that you have nightmares.

        2. “effect a change” is business-speak.

          “display an affect” is based on the idea of trying to read people’s emotions through their facial expressions, which doesn’t work, and which can be downright harmful due to the mis-guesses.

        3. Actually, a case could be made for the correctness of’ ‘effect’ as a verb here. To effect means to cause, or to bring about. To bring about a vagina is to reproduce, and frankly I am in favor of people who cannot bear to hear the word ‘vagina’ not bearing (or fathering) children either. It indicates they have not yet reached adulthood.

      2. I’d promise to do better, but I am the result of public schooling.
        Thankfully my message often seems to overcome my inability to express it perfectly.

          1. Not the first time, won’t be the last time.
            Its more mind shattering for them when I can slip in and out of lolspeak and still make salient points.

  3. Mailing a nice typed letter consisting of the word “vagina” to the appropriate representatives seems like a worthy action.

  4. Bahahaha… Sometimes living in Michigan can be fun, funny to see that insanely wealthy Bloomfield has a democratic as a representative.

    1. Full disclosure, two of my cousins are doctors, ones at Childrens Detroit, and the other is still in med school, and they are both flipping out over this insanity. 

    1. The tag works much beter than all caps. If you use all caps sometimes it looks like you’re unbalanced and trying to insist on your own facts just by force of will.

      Edit: you’re not your

    2.  Uh. Jo, please please please don’t regurgitate lies you’ve been told by the 6 company controlled media. Clearly, when someone gets kicked out for using the word vagina, and when 400 new bills have been presented this year alone that seek to limit women’s rights, there’s an issue. And its ugly head wears both democratic and republican masks. C’mon think.

  5. It’s her own damn fault. Nobody to blame but herself. If she’d’ve just used the term ‘front-bottom’ or ‘kitty-witty’ …

    1. Or ‘lady town’ or ‘poonani’ or ‘fanny’ (if she were British) or any of a hundred other terms that I really hope other commenters will add.

          1. So sorry – apparently I needed to refresh before I posted my comments.  Don’t mean to look like I’m trying to steal from you.

      1. Why is there a need to use an alternative word? The word Vagina is a normal descriptive word for a body part, like Arm, Leg, Head…… She should not be punished for using a normal, non-vulgar word in a debate in context. What is happening is the opposition is using petty arguments to prevent people being able to disagree in public. A form of censorship if you will.

    2. I swear, American English may well have the largest set of euphemisms for sex and genitals on the planet.

  6. I don’t know how appropriate her comment was. If a male made a similar comment about his penis he would have hell to pay. It isn’t that she said “vagina,” it is that she a snarky comment to the effect of “I know you are interested in my vagina.” She attempted a witty comment but failed.

    1.  I came here to say basically the same thing.  It’s not just that she said “vagina”.  It’s that she verbally connected the other people in the room with her very own vagina.  “You never imply ownership” and all that.

        1. It isn’t okay to take away a woman’s rights. I am an admitted liberal and completely agree with Representative Brown’s agenda.

          My only argument in this situation is that whether it is acceptable to make an offensive statement in which you suggest that your fellow politicians are interested in taking carnal knowledge from you on the legislative floor. I don’t agree with the sentiment regardless of the agenda.

          Since the election of Barack Obama, I have hoped that the Democrats would, in general, come to a better understanding that the best way to win the loyalty of undecided voters is to speak clearly and avoid offensive hyperbole. The extreme conservative right seems to respond positively to overt rudeness, but a great many of the moderates out there aren’t going to lean toward your political agenda.

          1. Since the election of Barack Obama, I have hoped that the Democrats would, in general, come to a better understanding that the best way to win the loyalty of undecided voters is to speak clearly and avoid offensive hyperbole.

            That’s called bringing a knife to a gun fight.

          2. OK, I hear your judgement of these matters but am completely baffled by it. What on earth is hyperbolic about calling a vagina a vagina?

      1. Um, connecting other people in the room (legislators) to her vagina was precisely what she intended. She objects to the prurient, inappropriate and belittling interest these people in the room take in her very private matters (as a proxy for all women in the state). It’s completely, utterly appropriate. 

        Or in other words, they started it. 

        1. When you are fighting a legislative battle for rights, even ones that should be obvious to anybody with basic compassion, you have to avoid telling who think they are trying to rescue babies that they are trying to rape women.

          This shouldn’t be a legislative argument anyway. The supreme court should be drawing the line on abortion. It should be legal and limitless provided the woman carrying consents to the procedure .

          1.  And the people who don’t like abortions should work to make them almost completely Unnecessary, not illegal. Problem is, the people who don’t like abortions also often don’t seem to like telling people how to have sex that doesn’t result in pregnancy. I was lucky, at my (protestant, church-run) private high school, they said “hold off on having sex, trust on this one, if you can’t wait, this is how to avoid STDs and Pregnancy, but we’d prefer it you waited.”

            Freakingly enlightened compared to some many other schools, private Or state apparently.

    2. But to complete the analogy, the comment would have to have been made in the context of a world run primarily by women, in a legislature packed with women, passing anti-male legislation.

      1. Indeed.

        The legislature was debating the proper handling of female genitalia in their state. If they were debating the right and wrong ways to deal with male genetalia then I would be absolutely dismayed if at least one legislator didn’t call them by name.

    3. She might have reasonably expected them to take offense at this, but I wouldn’t call it a failure in terms of wit or political usefulness.

    4. If the banhammer came down every time a joke failed in a statehouse, we’d have a lot less stuff on CSPAN.

      1. I would agree. If a man were fighting for some kind of male birth control thing or testicular cancer legislation and made the comment “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my penis and testicles, but ‘no’ means ‘no,'” he would be labeled a total dirtbag by the general public. 

        The commentary prior to “I’m flattered…” was exceptional, but the comment suggests the possibility of “rape” or “sexual longing” that was not appropriate for the venue. 

        I sincerely doubt there is a problem with saying “vagina” on the legislative floor, she threw out a fairly offensive double entendre comment.  If she said that to a judge in a courtroom she would have been held in contempt.

        1. The flaw in your reasoning, of course, is using a paternalistic / woman-oppressing “public” as the standard by which you presume yourself fit to judge this woman.

        2. If a man was objecting to some male birth control thing or legislation of procedures affecting male genitalia on the basis that they are belittling to him and affecting his bodily integrity? Of COURSE he could make the quip in my book. (I’m female and a lesbian, by the way. I don’t normally deal in penises, but when appropriate they should certainly be named.)

        3. Ha ha, if there was a “male birth control thing” of ANY KIND, they wouldn’t be discussing it because it would have already been voted on and signed into law without discussion and with full funding for free provision to all citizens upon request.

  7. Not to lessen the stupidity of censuring her, but I think the context is important here. She didn’t just use the word “vagina” in passing, she used it in a sentence in which she implied that the Speaker and her opponents were trying to rape her. I think that’s what got her censured, not an anatomical reference.

    1. I think it can be argued that Americans are so buttoned up about sexuality that any term or reference to genitalia gets the right wing foaming at the mouth.

    2.  “How dare she imply that we’re taking an unseemly interest in her vagina by drafting legislation that would take away her decision-making powers about her vagina!”

      1. Apparently, when women say no about anything that concerns people who want to take over their bodies and control their choices about their reproductive systems it is bad because it is like saying “no” to some one who wants to have sex with you, and since we all know that when a woman says “no” to sex, she will be raped because women saying “no” to sex will mean that she will have to have sex anyway because men are apparently universally evil… then it is basically accusing everyone of raping her.  This is horrible because it implies that men are universally evil because they are all rapists if a woman says no.

        Makes perfect sense! If you consider a woman saying “no” as the cause of rape.

        1. To be fair, the phrase “…but no means no” is directly in reference to the anti-rape “no means no” campaign.

          I don’t think the legislator was directly suggesting that the Speaker was wanting to rape her, but she was directly referencing that campaign.

          1. That campaign, as you call it, rests on the concept that every individual’s bodily autonomy is absolute.  That very concept is being trampled here.  I feel like it’s perfectly appropriate to point out – even via humor – that she has the anatomy in question and the actions being taken violate her bodily autonomy.  She didn’t imply that they’re rapists.  She implied that they’re ignoring and devaluing consent and control of one’s own body, which is something rapists also do.

            People often dislike being compared to rapists, which is understandable, but the comparison is apt.  I would suggest that the answer isn’t so much silencing the person making the comparison, but rather changing your own behavior.  If you don’t want to be compared to a rapist, don’t act like you have the right to overrule someone else’s bodily autonomy.  

          2. @Tess: I may be misreading your reply, or you were misreading mine, but I’m in no way wanting to silence Ms Brown, or even suggest that any of her words were out of bounds. I was just explaining why gobo’s comments, above, suggesting that she was referencing rape, weren’t as absurd as all the people replying made them sound.

            I think her words were perfectly apt.

        2.  I’m sure that there are more than a few legislators in that room who have been telling themselves, “She ASKED for it !”

    3. That was not her intention at all. It has to do with male politicians (mostly Republicans) making decisions for women without actually taking how women feel into account. Ask yourself why men are so interested in laws restricting what women can do. That was what she was saying.

      1. I disagree. I think she was making a very direct reference to the well-known “no means no” anti-rape campaign, as SamSam commented. She was directly referencing forced sexual encounters and comparing the senators to rapists.

        1. Personally, I think the comparison fits.

          I’m immediately reminded of the forced intravaginal ultrasounds demanded by Republican public officials in many states.

          I think they are trying to rape American women.  And succeeding.

        2. A bunch of male politicians want to pass laws that limit women’s bodily autonomy and you don’t think it’s reasonable to point out that this is akin to (not the same as) rape?

          I suppose some people think it’s more important to be polite than correct, and more important to do what’s expected than stand up for one’s own rights and the rights of others. I disagree.

          1. My opinion is that people are forgetting that “rape” is about taking power over someone and not about sex.  Their confusion about rape makes them associate it with  “extra obscene” “impolite” or “inappropriate”.  Just like any power dynamic you keep it going by having reasons to refuse to bring it up. You are absolutely right however.

    4. Is there a rape equivalent to Godwin’s Law? “Interest” does not imply rape.

      …. Actually, after reading some of the other comments, I see what you’re talking about — the “no means no” bit. Still, would republican legislators have ever heard that expression before in the context of anti-rape discussions? I’m pretty sure they were busy at the Campus Crusade for Christ on the nights when the rest of their college classmates were at Take Back The Night rallies.

    5.  Well…THAT certainly couldn’t be used as an analogy for how the legislature views it’s right to treat women and their health issues.

    6. ”  in which she implied that the Speaker and her opponents were trying to rape her.”

      Huh. I interpreted that as her implying that the Speaker and her opponents were trying to tell her what she’s allowed to do with her vagina.

  8. What fucking hypocrites. These jerks have made hundreds of statements that I find far more offensive than the word “vagina.” Why don’t they censor their own damn selves?

    Not that the standard is that high, I don’t find the word vagina offensive in any way. Vagina, vagina, vagina,vagina.

  9. I don’t think it was appropriate to conflate abortion restrictions with rape. It weakens the argument and harms both causes to use that kind of rhetoric.

    That said, the fact that any legislator can barred from debate seems fundamentally unconstitutional to me. If I lived in MI, I’d be mad as hell at the idea that my representative couldn’t speak on my behalf.

    1.  It isn’t rhetoric if both rape and abortion restrictions  are about very basic removal of reproductive autonomy. The other side calls abortion “murder” without any hesitation, despite their views on self defence.

      1. Rape is not about the basic removal of reproductive autonomy; rape is violence, perpetrated by one person upon another. Putting restrictions on abortion is denial of reproductive freedom. But it is not violence, and the two are not the same.

          1. Denial of certain reproductive liberties is not always synonymous with forced pregnancy. Forced pregnancy is certainly an egregious crime – and it’s certainly recognized under international law as a crime of violence. But it is not rape.

          2. I agree.  

            And some people here are having a really big problem with the idea that comparing two things and equating two things are different.  Which is kind of meta-amusing I guess…

        1. No, it’s still violence. It’s just that the state enjoys a monopoly on the legitimate use of such violence. Think of your ob/gyn as the medical equivalent of Lt. John Pike, legally empowered to assault, to maim, to torture, in order to further the interests of the state he serves.

    2.  Actually, some of the laws being pushed through require medically unnecessary sonograms because the woman (legally) has to see her baby before she is allowed to abort. For many women, this would require her doctor to use a vaginal probe in order to get the picture. In other words, doctors would be vaginally penetrating these women for reasons that have no medical purpose. And neither the woman nor the doctor would have the legal right to move on with the abortion unless this procedure is carried out.  If required, medically-worthless vaginal penetration isn’t uncomfortably close to rape, I’m not sure what is.

      1. That’s a good point, though in the case of Michigan’s law (HB 5711) I don’t think that’s the case. There are lots of horrible, unconstitutional limits placed on abortion by that bill, but forced transvaginal sonograms do not seem to be part of it. At least from what I’ve read.

    3. “I don’t think it was appropriate to conflate abortion restrictions with rape. It weakens the argument and harms both causes to use that kind of rhetoric.”

      Don’t both situations involve someone else making decisions about what should be happening to your snatch?

      1. Yeah, that’s the point of comparison that people seem to be missing.  I think it’s entirely appropriate, especially given the “right to bodily autonomy” argument that’s the underpinning of Roe.  Trying to weaken or overturn Roe is an attack on bodily autonomy.  Rape is an attack on bodily autonomy.

        Ergo, one of these things is like the other.

  10. It’s unfortunate that her dropping of a “v-bomb” overshadowed the rest of her argument.  Every news story I’ve seen mentions her parting shot (though many got the quote wrong), but few provide a complete transcript.  [emphasis mine]

    “Yesterday we heard from the Representative from Holland, speak about religious freedom. I’m Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have 2 sets of dishes–one for meat and one for dairy, and another 2 sets of dishes on top of that for Passover. Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother, are not only permissible, but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there’s a question of the life of the mother, or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?”

    1. It’s my understanding (as someone who has just read the Old Testament part of the Bible, not any other Jewish texts) that there isn’t really any reference to abortion per se in Jewish writings, so any of these beliefs would be the interpretation of whatever was in the writings (for whatever Jewish group she belonged to). From what I can tell, the Old Testament gives some fairly crude descriptions of life before birth and gives the child value (at least in retrospect), but there are different penalties placed on causing the death of a fetus and a child or adult. I’d have thought that was more of a pragmatic consideration, as miscarriages happen more often and easier than the death of an adult – so not necessarily a statement of value one way or the other. Remember though that this is the same passage that advocates the death penalty for stealing a servant, but just ‘punishment’ for beating them to death (and only if that happens within a day or two. Otherwise “he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”)

        1. I said this was coming from someone who isn’t familiar with the Jewish scriptures. I think the Mishnah passage has a fairly strict “abortion only if the woman’s life is threatened” policy (as in this case, the fetus is seen as someone making an attempt on a person’s life, so the abortion would be an act of self defense). It’s an interesting perspective on the issue, but it doesn’t really support her final comments, which seem to be basing the decision on a woman’s right to choose rather than a fairly strict standard that almost everyone would agree to (even many conservative evangelicals), that a woman’s life outweighs a the value of a fetus if there is a conflict. The passages themselves seem to be largely based on the Exodus passage that I mentioned, so my criticism of the ‘enlightened’ value system of human life there would still hold.

          1. One thing to keep in mind in all this tho is that this stuff was written at a time of perpetual threats. As such, there was a constant need to refill the ranks of able bodied adults. In that view, taboos on abortion, outside of the direct loss of a fertile adult, and on masturbation takes on a much more practical light.

          2. If you’re not familiar with “the Jewish scriptures” (and that phrase underscores your lack of familiarity), then why are you lecturing the rest of us about the topic? 

          3. @AvramGrumer:disqus That certainly wasn’t my intention, I wrote the first comment fairly late at night and was clumsy with my terms. I’m not going to change it, because it’s out there now and people have commented on it. I was also using the word ‘scriptures’ in the second comment to mean ‘authoritative writings’ rather than putting the Mishnah on the same level as the Torah. @digi_owl:disqus I think there are many progressive aspects of the Torah when you consider the context, and am definitely not trying to criticize any bronze age readers out there.

  11. Try changing the word “vagina” to “body” and the sentence loses it’s umpf. Really, her insistence in making the Speaker squirm really undermines the rest of her well stated argument.

    She is relying on taboo, but sometimes that will get you tabooted. 

    1. I’m sure the Speaker wasn’t squirming in the least.  Just using the “squirm” card as  an opportunity to kick a woman out of the debate.

    2. It would be nice to see some more context to these comments. I think for a start, it should be obvious that these laws have much more of a bearing on a woman’s life and health than anyone else, therefore women have much more right to have a say in what goes in the laws. However, interest in abortion law goes much farther than just interest in women’s rights or a woman’s vagina (or even her body), and so it is perfectly reasonable for men as well as women to discuss and show an interest in it. We are dealing with a human life here: It is not fully developed yet and cannot survive independently, but neither can a newborn child. I’m not going to argue for either side here, but her proposed amendment was obviously a pretty poor analogy and should rightly have been dismissed as a waste of time. Playing cheap tricks to get the speaker on the back foot is not really worthy of a state representative. I’m not trying to avoid criticizing the speaker though; to be fair, you don’t even hear what she is answering, so it’s hard to comment.

      1. You’ve never read a single article on the subject before?  It’s been well covered.  Do catch up.

        1. Sure I’ve read up on it. It’s a stupid bill made by ignorant people who don’t seem to care who gets hurt by it. But apart from the informative part about Jewish law, she’s just giving some remarks designed to provoke an emotional response and proposing a amendment that is just a waste of everyone’s time. It’s the sort of thing that you would expect in some demonstration on the steps outside the building, not for someone discussing a bill. I couldn’t comment on the speaker’s particular statements though, as the comment she was replying to wasn’t in the clip. Could you explain why this ‘interest in her vagina’ comment was pertinent to the topic? The bill seems to be more about regulating abortions out of existence.

          1. Abortions happen to people who have vaginas, and vaginas are generally heavily involved in the issue, what with providing access to the uterus via the cervix.  They’re also the part of female internal genitalia people can actually see/feel – you cannot touch someone in the uterus.  

            So I think it’s reasonable to say that people who are trying to restrict abortion are showing some interest in vaginas.  People who are trying to restrict vasectomies (which no one is doing in a serious fashion, intriguingly enough:  men are totally allowed to decide not to have children) are interested in penises, wouldn’t you say?  But the penis doesn’t make the sperm; it just lets it pass through.

      1. she wasn’t talking about the Platonic concept of “vagina”. she referred to her own vagina in a sentence directed at a specific person, using a slogan that’s long been associated with anti-rape protests.

        it’s an important difference.

        1. I don’t see what this “important difference” is, except the generic “shrill female is shrill” thing that is directed to anyone who makes male power uncomfortable.

          1. that’s just silly.

            she made a rhetorical blunder. it’s not a “male power” issue – any male politician who publicly implied that a female colleague was unduly interested in his personal penis during a comparable discussion would find himself reprimanded too.

            “And finally, Madame. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my penis, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”
            /jaws hit the floor

          2. @cleek:disqus In which situation do you see a male legislator needing to do so?  Or being on the defensive from a more powerful female majority threatening his reproductive rights?

        2. she wasn’t talking about the Platonic concept of “vagina”.

          Refresh my memory. Does vagina come between octahedron and dodecahedron or between dodecahedron and icosahedron?

          1. So you’re allowed to use figurative language, but Rep. Brown isn’t? Got it.

          2. “So you’re allowed to use figurative language, but Rep. Brown isn’t?”

            that would be an awesome comeback … had i ever said anything even resembling that.

            “Got it.”

            no, clearly you do not got it. you don’t even seem to know what “it” is.

            (oh, how i hope you delete my next reply, and then close the thread! i know how important it is that you have the last word)

          3. Re-read your own comment. Repeat until you understand the irony that you’ve created.

        3. The most important difference is that, in fact, she was in fact not censured for the word “vagina” at all, but for the phrase “no means no”:


          Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh, R-Livonia, gaveled Brown out of order for saying “no means no” — because it suggested Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape, House GOP spokesman Ari Adler said.

          “It has nothing to do with the word vagina,” Adler said.

          Given that the legislation does, in fact, require involuntary and medically unnecessary penetration of the vagina by a foreign object in order to obtain a legal medical procedure, I’m a bit at a loss to see what was giving the honorable Speaker Pro Tem the vapors.

          1. @cleek:disqus the vagina? i think you mean Rep. Lisa Brown’s own personal vagina. right?

            I think we’re learning a great deal more about you than you realize, here.

            No, I do not mean any one person’s personal vagina. I mean the vagina of the person seeking the procedure. That’s 100% clear from what I wrote, but I’m happy to clarify it again for you.

            In any event, you now need to make the case that the phrase “no means no” by itself is a good and sufficient reason for an indefinite ban on speaking in the House, unless you believe that Mr Adler is lying.

            still no difference?

            Nope. None. You keep stating this over and over again, but I haven’t heard a single actual reason that this is unparliamentary language.

  12.  http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ljpbmyVDaK1qf7r5lo1_500.gif

    Just look at it.

    1. Well it is the state where the Michigan Womyn’s Festival is held, after all.  Embarrassing what jerks the “hicks in the sticks” are.   Michigan, like many swing states, is divided between more liberal urban/suburban folks and the God fearing Xians of the small towns.

      1. I often wonder if they are god fearing because they are pretty sure when he comes back he is going to kick all their asses for perverting what he preached.

  13. How is this not American sharia? I say the women legislators should turn up for work in burqas at the next session.

      1. Some would argue that having the government tell women they can’t get abortions or take contraceptives is different than having the government tell insurance companies to stop kicking people with cancer off their plans.  

        1. Well, when you put it that way it does sound less hypocritical.  No one wants to pay for someone else’s contraceptives or cancer.

        1.  Normally, I let my sarcasm go unexplained but since I enjoy your comments I will explain myself.

          The first comment was meant to point out the hypocrisy of the Republican party on being against government intervention into health care UNLESS it is to restrict women’s choices.

          The second comment was meant to point out the heartlessness of people who want to deny health care to women and to put the profit motive over people who desperately need health care.

          1. Sorry, lknope.  My sarcasometer is off today.

            But, on the plus side, it did give me the opportunity to regurgitate those links I love to share so much.


  14. I’m a little skeptical about how this is being reported. Apparently the GOP or the House Majority Viper or whatever is able to ban people from speaking if they feel that “decorum” has been breached. As much as I enjoy rubbing the Republicans’ noses in it, so to speak, this seems more like a case of their general abuse of authority, not  the fact that Rep. Brown used the word “vagina” specifically. Rep. Barb Byrum was also silenced because she caused a “disturbance” or had a “temper tantrum”, which must be some kind of parliamentary jargon from Robert’s Rules.

    1. “It’s my impression that I’m being banned from speaking as a result of my use of the term vasectomy — a medical procedure,” Byrum told The Huffington Post. “Neither of us has been contacted by Republican leadership as to why or how long we’ve been banned. Talk about disrespectful, that they don’t have the common decency to tell us themselves.”

      Much like people who are “disappeared” into secret prisons or simply killed, part of the message with disappeared speech is that the authorities don’t have enough respect for you to tell what your transgression was, or how you or your fellow citizens could avoid making the same mistake again. You have to guess how you should behave, generally censor yourself pre-emptively, and bow to their authority.

      1. Interesting. It also encourages you to over-censor yourself out of fear that you would be censured under a hitherto unknown law, but gives the government plausible deniability in the case that you would criticize the system for its draconian rules.

  15. I hardly think it was specifically the use of the word Vagina. More the contextual implications and that she followed it up snarkily with an anti date-rape slogan. Look on the Internet that is par for the course, in a stately debate not so much.

    I don’t disagree with what she had to say but there are a thousand other ways to say it and get the same point across. 

    1. One might suggest it is snarky for a bunch of men to decide their brand of religious teaching needs to be enshrined in law and forcing those ideas onto the bodies of others.

    2. What she said might have been distasteful or offensive to some, but the need for our elected representatives to be able to speak on the House floor should trump the need for “decorum” on the house floor.

  16. surprise the “outrage” comes from republicans. they have perfected this technique of false moral outrage they play up the part pretend to be shocked and outraged by this and then joke about it in private, its all a big game and its sick.

  17. I dunno know. You can make me stop saying “vagina” but I’m pretty sure that you’re not going to be happy with my alternatives. And I know dozens of them.

    1. Mr. Chairman, there is an unseemly interest in my bearded clam.

      Mr. Chairman, there is an unseemly interest in my hair pie.

      We could go on for days, Mr. Chairman. How about I just use vagina?

  18. In protest, every single Democrat should say only one word during the next debate: “vagina.” Then sit down.  Let the Republicans ban the entire Democratic Party from all debate.

  19. Having moved from Michigan to Texas, I would rather deal with the shitty Texas politics than the much shittier Michigan politics. From the state level to the local level.

  20. It is good to know that even elected politicians are supposed to be cheerful, polite and attentive when they are being stripped from their rights. We don’t that jew bitch to believe it’s fine to get uppity. Right?

  21. I guess this didn’t work so well to ‘silence’ the two female reps.  I’ve bumped into this story at least 5 times since it happened yesterday.  The MI House GOP could hardly have gotten more negative publicity for their bill if they’d tried.
    I live in a moderate/Dem/Jewish suburb within 15 minutes of West Bloomfield.  This is getting talked about locally.

  22. I lived in liberal Ann Arbor for 5 years and always felt like I was in a fortress surrounded by idiots and all news from Michigan proves it. Isn’t it wonderful how the actual, human-effecting, anti-woman laws that these neanderthals enact are overlooked in favour of shock at the use of an anatomical word – and I don’t give a shit if it was used in a snarky manner. Words are just words and should only be censored in their most extreme forms (if at all).

      1. The two cities are frequently compaired.

        Alternate names for Ann Arbor (given by “conservative” outsiders): 
        -The People’s Republic
        -Six Square Miles Surrounded by Reality (doesn’t fit on a bumper sticker very well – though Ann Arborites lurv themselves some bumper stickers!)

  23. What I find oddest from the whole thing is that the right is now trying to outlaw vasectomies.  Is this not something new and I’ve just missed it?

    1. I think this clip from the NPR story clarifies what you’re referring to.  There was an attempt by a Dem to add a symbolic amendment to ban vasectomies except to save the man’s life.  

      “Brown was not the only woman silenced on the floor today. Rep. Barb Byrum was also not allowed to speak on the floor.”Byrum, D-Onondaga, caused a disturbance on the House floor Wednesday when she wasn’t allowed to introduce an amendment to the abortion regulations bill banning men from getting a vasectomy unless the sterilization procedure was necessary to save a man’s life,” the Detroit News reports.”

    2. The right isn’t doing that.  There’s pushback from people who are trying to point out that the recent spate of laws limiting women’s reproductive freedom are specifically anti-woman, and one of the tactics used is to simply propose an amendment similarly limiting men.  The sheer ridiculousness of the amendment is meant to point out the ridiculousness of the bill in question – to highlight that the only reason anyone thinks it’s reasonable is because it affects women rather than everyone.

      There are genuinely people out there who think it’s okay to prevent women from getting access to contraception but have no problem with vasectomies, for example.  Those people are ridiculous.

  24. If you are a conservative and voted in republicans, you are to blame for this.  If you are a moderate or progressive who didn’t vote against them, you are as well.  If you fall into either of these categories and are outraged over this, then find the nearest mirror.

  25. From Eric Idle’s Liverdance stage show.
    By Eric Idle.
    Sung by Eric Idle.

    Isn’t it awfully nice to have a pussy?
    Isn’t it fightfully good to have a clit?
    It’s swell to have a snapper
    It’s divine to own a snatch
    From the thinnest little beaver
    To the world’s biggest thatch.

    So three cheers for your pewter or vagina
    Hooray for your golden pouch of God
    Your camel-toe, your bearded clown
    Your luter or your twat
    You can shave it into shapes
    Or you can wear it like a hat
    But don’t let a man come near it, of that’s the end of that
    They won’t come back.

    Thankyee all….

    1. Thank you!  I hadn’t seen (or heard) that before.

      Is that a typo near the end though?  “of that’s the end of that” before seems like it should read “or that’s” instead.

      1. I’ve only been able to find one version of the lyrics to the pussy song. It’s a repurposing of the penis song from Meaning of Life

        Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis?
        Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?
        It’s swell to have a stiffy.
        It’s divine to own a dick,
        From the tiniest little tadger
        To the world’s biggest prick.
        So, three cheers for your Willy or John Thomas.
        Hooray for your one-eyed trouser snake,
        Your piece of pork, your wife’s best friend,
        Your Percy, or your cock.
        You can wrap it up in ribbons.
        You can slip it in your sock,
        But don’t take it out in public,
        Or they will stick you in the dock,
        And you won’t come back.
        Oh, thank you very much.

        So, yes, that’s probably a typo It should read:

        But don’t let a man come near it
        Or that’s the end of that 
        They won’t come back.
        Thankyee all…. 

  26. Since the GOP are a bunch of 12 year olds, from here on out, every time someone talks to them, anything said should start with “vagina, vagina, vagina.”

  27. This is what happens when you elect officials who openly run on their religious beliefs.
    They convince you during the election that they’ll work on economic issues and they campaign for individual rights, then they get stuck on social issues that don’t agree with their religious view for their ENTIRE term.

    We need politicians in office who are willing to compromise and move the country forward.  Instead, all we seem to get are bureaucrats.

  28. They are not just banning these two representatives from speaking. They are removing the representation for the districts they represent. The DOJ needs to start federal civil rights investigations now.

  29. HEAD KNIGHT: Don’t say that word.
    ARTHUR: What word?
    HEAD KNIGHT: I cannot tell, suffice to say is one of the words the Knights of Ni cannot hear.

  30. Ok I has a plan!
    We need someone who knows Robert’s Rules of Order by heart, so we can seize control of the floor.
    And then…. 
    We perform the Vagina Monologues and watch their heads explode.
    Problem – Solution.

  31. It’s always a difficult question, though: it should be perfectly fine to say what she said, and so she should be lauded for that, and yet by saying it she made her entire speech about that — see the discussion here and on every other site and news — and now no one in the state house cares about the main content and her point (or has an excuse to ignore it).

    It’s like if I ended some speech on protection of medical privacy, and ended it by saying “I mean, Jesus Christ may have had anal warts for all I know!

    It’s a perfectly true statement, it’s relevant, and there’s nothing actually wrong with the words “anal warts” — it’s a fine medical term — but do you think there would be a lot of mock outrage about it?

    So, +1 for telling it like it is, but maybe a rhetorical -2 for allowing blowhards to feign outrage and have an excuse to ignore the content of her speech?

    1.  I’m pretty sure that her statements were INTENDED to trigger the usual faux-outrage, restrictive bullshit that the GOP wallows in. Give ’em enough rope….

  32. The very first female US Representative (1916) and pioneer women’s libber Jeannette Rankin in action:

    When a meeting ostensibly for female peace activists somehow morphed into a symposium on female sexual identity, Rankin left, commenting “Vaginas, vaginas, vaginas. It’s nothing but vaginas. I’m getting out of here.”

    1. (deleted…no longer makes sense as first comment on second page with no reference to what I was responding to)

  33. House floor leader Jim Stamas is from the same town, Midland, as US congressman Dave Camp, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  Midland is so conservative that Camp has almost never gotten less than 61% of the vote, even in 2008 (strange exception in 2004 when the data shows he ran against a Dem and a Repub – confusing). Midland is home to Dow Chemical and Dow Corning. Lots of churches and corporate types.  Dems have no chance in this district. So you don’t get any moderate Repubs that have to campaign for moderate votes.  Most of the minorities in Midland are  foreign PhDs brought in to work at the Dows.  Outside of Midland its a different world – low income, low education level – Michitucky.

  34. Wow, my own country’s legislative assembly leaves much to be desired – but yours, dear Michiganians, seems to be a freaking trainwreck!
    To ameliorate, I recommend forced vasectomies for all male GOP members.

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