It’s not about vaginas. When Rep. Lisa Brown ended her speech on the relevancy of Jewish law to U.S. abortion law, yesterday, she decided to finish with the sort of zinger that is already a cliché on internet tweeting and Facebook bumper stickers: “Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'” She was subsequently barred from speaking regarding the school employee retirement bill on the grounds that her conduct was “offensive,” and in response not only she, but many internet commentators are painting the republicans as prudes afraid of the word vagina.
Said Brown: “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas? What language should I use?”
But clearly the innuendo in her final words played on the double meaning of “interested,” in which she was “flattered” they wanted to have sex with her, but no means no, thus, of course, equating abortion laws with rape, and the speaker with a rapist.
Her previous words were unrelated to her conclusion, where she details what ancient Jewish law had to say about American legislation:
“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 adapt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adapt to yours?”
The peculiar reference to her religious beliefs, which were brought up only to show the irrelevancy of religious beliefs, was not what offended the house, but her innuendo that accused Republicans of being interested in her vagina. This point was lost on many. Consider Naomi McAuliffe writing for the Guardian:
“Apparently, when discussing medical procedure, it’s not really appropriate to use medical words. Well not about lady bits anyway. It makes me wonder what euphemisms would be acceptable. ‘Will the representative get his hand out of the otter’s pocket?’ ‘Can the honorable gentlemen refrain from trespassing in the lady cave?” ‘Lawmaker banned from speaking after referring to her vagina in abortion debate.'”
Of course, Brown wasn’t detailing a medical procedure, but making a sexual innuendo. Naomi knew this, Brown knew this, but a red herring charge of prudishness against Republicans is so much fun!
Others concerned about the reduction of political discourse to the level of Facebook bumper stickers or barroom jokes are of course concerned not about this word or that, but her conduct.
“My concern was the decorum of the House, not of anything she said,” Majority Floor Leader Jim Stama, R-Midland, told the newspaper. “I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far yesterday.”