If You Can’t Say It, You Can’t Regulate It: What I learned From Henry Rollins

If You Can’t Say It, You Can’t Regulate It: What I learned From Henry Rollins

By Amanda Fox

Vagina

There, I said it.

Vagina.

I said it again, and the world did not end!

I’m also pretty sure no one got pregnant because I said it.

The way some people view the word, however, you would think both of those things happened and everything in between. We’d all like to think this is one big joke or something we’re doing to try to shock you perhaps, but it isn’t.

For some reason, the use of a medical term that is used in basic health education classes in school is treated as if it is so taboo that the fires of hell will rain down on anyone who dares utter it, and it isn’t just a fringe element that thinks so. This train of thought is alive in well in the heads of people in real authority positions.

Although you might think Henry Rollins was joking, this was and is a real issue

Although you might think Henry Rollins was joking, this was and is a real issue

Recently, we shared a post on our Facebook page (shown at the left). At the time of this writing, it has been shared on about 2500 walls and seen by over 250,000 people – no small feat considering how stingy Facebook is about posts from pages getting views these days. I point that out because it goes to show how powerful the words are that this graphic contains.

“If using the medical term for a woman’s anatomy during a reproductive healthcare debate constitutes a failure of decorum, it’s time to admit we live in a hegemonic patriarchy. If you aren’t grown up enough to say vagina, you definitely can’t regulate vagina.” ~ Henry Rollins

Rollins made this statement not long after what is now known as “Vaginagate” – an instance in which a pair of female politicians were banned from addressing the Michigan House of Representatives for daring to speak out about female reproduction.

Rep. Lisa Brown (D) had stated, during a debate on a highly controversial abortion bill on the floor, “Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no’.”

Brown was subsequently banned from the floor – which prevented her from voting on a school bill that followed.

Banned – because Jim Stamos (R), the Floor Leader, felt using the word “vagina” violated house “decorum”.

Mike Callton (R), chimed in with two more idiotic cents: “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.”  (Really? I can’t handle the word “vagina” because I have one?)

Ari Adler, a spokesman for the Republican speaker then jumped in, saying: “Comments and actions failed to maintain the decorum of the house of representatives.” Adler was referring to both the statement by Rep. Brown and also statements made by Rep. Barb Byrum (D), who had wanted to speak on a bill regarding vasectomies.

All Rep. Brown could say in response was: “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating [on] vaginas? What language should I use?”

Brown makes an excellent point. What was she supposed to say instead of vagina?

Should she call it her “hoo hoo”, “vajayjay” “hooha”, “coochie”, “pussy”, “vag”, “bajingo”, “down there” or some other slang term during a serious debate concerning a medical procedure?

Is she just supposed to bow her head and point toward her vagina every time she needs to use the word?  Why is it that vagina is so offensive it dare not be spoken? I mean, 51% of the world population has a vagina. They aren’t rare. They aren’t hard to find. Vaginas are everywhere, yet we aren’t supposed to use the word? What gives?

This is reminiscent of the uproar when the notorious “Vagina Monologues” debuted. People that had no idea about what would be said in the actual show were up in arms over the use of the word vagina. Now, politicians debating legislation related to the vagina are being censured for saying vagina. Little kids that say vagina are being shushed and told not to say “that word”. Teachers that can barely spit the word vagina out when they conduct classes on human reproduction. What message does this send?

It sends a clear (albeit erroneous) message that vagina is a word we shouldn’t be using. It alludes to the vagina being something dirty, something taboo, something to be ashamed of. In reality, the vagina is a muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and connects the uterus to the outside world. Without the vagina, there is no birth. It is a piece of human anatomy and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It certainly isn’t dirty.

This brings us back to the original point of what Rollins said: if you can’t say vagina, you can’t regulate them. I’d like to add, if you can’t say vagina, you shouldn’t be able to enjoy one either. As a woman, why in the world would I want to grant access to my vagina to someone that views it as something so inappropriate that they bristle at the word being spoken?

I’m not calling for a full-on vagina embargo – but ladies, we have to ask ourselves why we give the very people who think the word vagina is too dirty to use (even in context and when talking about vaginas) the power to make decisions that directly effect our vaginas?

I’m also not saying that no men should be involved at all in making decisions regarding legislation of vaginas, but I am saying that they better know what it actually is, how it works (it doesn’t magically kill rapist sperm, for example) – and they damn sure better be able to say V-A-G-I-N-A out loud without looking like they got kicked in the jewels or giggling.

And now for the gentlemen … We really do like you guys! But please, please, get over this idea that vagina is a dirty word. If vagina is a dirty word, so is penis and every slang name for it. We are full well aware you don’t all think vagina is a dirty word or that vaginas in general are bad. We get it. The problem is we also get there are too many that do think it is a dirty word and it has to stop! That goes for you ladies as well that are too embarrassed to say vagina!

Please, repeat after me … ahem:

…vagina…

…Vagina…!

Va-GI-na!

VAAGIIIINNNAAA!

VAGINA!!!

See … the world didn’t end and you weren’t struck down by lightning bolts. Nothing bad happened. All you did is say a simple word associated to a piece of female anatomy – VAGINA.

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  1. No matter how you feel about the topic of abortion, you have to admit that it’s pretty sad that she got banned from the floor for it. SOME may argue that it wasn’t her use of vagina, but how she used the word implying that the speaker was interested in her vagina that got her banned. It does sound wrought with sexual overtones.

    However, if you take that view instead, you have to question whether a male could have been banned from the floor had he said something similar. Is there any record of how this was handled in the past?

    • AmandaFox says:

      No one, has ever been banned from the state or federal floor for having said penis – male or female – and I did search a long time before writing this just to see who has been banned for saying penis or vagina on the floor. For the use of the word vagina however, there was this ban and at least two admonitions for it’s use – all during reproductive rights debates. There are records over the past 40 or so years of various politicians referring directly to another as being “retarded”, an “asshole” and “faggy” (just as a sampling) and none of those MEN were ever banned from the floor for even the session. Asshole, is slang for a body part, so it would seem to set the precedent that it is okay to refer to parts of the body involved in sexual acts and waste removal.

      I didn’t pickup on sexual overtone in what she said – particularly given the context, but I suppose if some people want to find that in it, they can. What I heard was sarcasm. Regardless, it is sad we have people making these decisions that are this emotionally immature that a medical term could send them into a tizzy.

      • Oline Wright says:

        I feel that the person responsible for banning her for the use of the word Vagina in a debate on reproduction measures should be required to take a course on reproduction. Plus he should be banned from making any votes dealing with such measures until he has taken and passed such a course.
        While vagina might not be appropriate when in “polite company” neither would any discourse on reproduction be considered proper. Thus if there is a debate on reproduction going on then they have already passed the bounds of decorum and “polite company” and therefore the use of the proper medical term was not a proper reason to exclude the woman from voting based on her use of the word. I believe some form of action should be taken against those that did so.

  2. Tracy M. says:

    LOVE this Amanda Fox! Vagina… V-A-G-I-N-A… VIGINA! Hmmm… the sky didn’t fall on my head…

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  1. […] being banned from the floor and prevented on voting on upcoming bills because she used the word “vagina” when talking about reproductive health. The men in the room accused her of being foulmouthed, […]

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