Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014
Columns

Gag me? You'd better not dare

Florida Voices
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 04:23 PM

Vagina. Vagina. Vagina.

Uterus. Uterus. Uterus.

There. I've said those dirty words, and boy, did it feel good. It's curious what a little free speech will do.

It clears the mind.

So here's the truth about what happened in Michigan to State Rep. Lisa Brown, a Democrat, when she dared to use the word "vagina" during a debate last week about bills that would make an abortion ridiculously hard to get.

The Republicans don't just want to control what women can do with — for delicate readers — their lady parts. The Republicans want to dictate what comes out of women's mouths.

During the debate, Brown told her colleagues, "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no."

Brown was then barred from speaking in the House. So was Rep. Barb Byrum, who introduced a bill banning vasectomies unless performed to save a man's life.

Their words were deemed to violate the decorum of the House. They were accused of being immature — like fifth-graders who tell fart jokes.

This isn't the first time somebody has been lectured to for naming a thing what it is. Like all trends, this one started in Florida. Last year, Rep Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, said that since the GOP was so gung-ho about lifting regulations on business, it would be smart if his wife incorporated her uterus. Then the Republicans would let her do anything she wanted.

Randolph was chastised for violating the decorum of the House. Decorum — the same word that was used against Brown and Byrum. Is this another Republican talking point?

Censorship does not work, of course. It provokes more rebellion. So last February, in Oklahoma, state Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre borrowed a sign from a woman protesting proposed personhood bills. The sign read: "If I wanted the government in my womb, I'd f--- a senator."

God bless the woman who made that sign, and God bless McIntyre. You have to maintain a sense of humor when somebody is trying to take away your most basic right as a woman.

To borrow, sort of, from Mitt Romney, what's good for the goose is apparently not good for the gander. Republicans use the word "vagina" all the time, but as part of an adjective, not a noun. They're all for trans-vaginal ultrasounds, whether women want them or not.

Now I'll borrow from a wise man, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. If he were alive today, he'd see right through what the GOP is doing.

Censorship, he said, "is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime."

Not democratic, with a lowercase d. Authoritarian.

Like vagina, like uterus, the use of this word makes this battle over abortion plain. I'll say it loud, say it proud. Authoritarian.


Mary Jo Melone, former columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, is a writer in Tampa.
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