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There's been plenty posted here and around the Internetz on "vagina." Cheers for that. But only in passing, and mostly in comments, have I seen this "tantrum" idea touched on. This is the other part of the situation that made my head feel like exploding. Let's discuss this more down there.

Rep. Lisa Brown, speaking from the Michigan House floor last Wednesday, argued against House Bill 5711, which would regulate abortion/reproductive care clinics so severely that it would close most or all of them down in the state of Michigan -- the intended effect of the bill. After she said, “Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested my vagina, but no means no,” she was banned from speaking. Some news reports say she was banned for a day, some say two days, some say indefinitely. I was not able to find out for myself the length of the ban.

Brown's colleague Barb Byrum, another Democrat, asked to be recognized. She was ignored. She called out for the speaker's attention and was still ignored. When she continued speaking, presenting a proposed amendment to HB 5711 (that vasectomies be regulated on the same basis as abortions and reproductive care clinics), she was gaveled and banned from speaking.

Brown was banned, so we're told, for inappropriate context. What inappropriate context? We don't know. They never told Brown and they didn't tell reporters either. It's a secret. Byrum was banned, says spokesman Ari Adler, because she "threw a tantrum on the House floor."

Many great things have already been written about the use of the word vagina. Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) famously said afterward, "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." I wouldn't presume to add to the genius with which that comment, and the ridiculous situation, have been deservedly deconstructed and shredded into little pieces.

But there was more. I am deeply bothered by the "tantrum" remark. It is so frustrating to be held to a different standard than men. If they speak powerfully, with feeling, they're dynamic, charismatic, passionate. If women speak the same way, they're over-emotional and out of control.

This double standard is a constant annoyance in professional life. I would hazard to say there's not one professional woman out there who has reached middle management (and probably well below that level too) who hasn't been careful every day of her professional life not to show "undue" emotion, even as her male colleagues pounded the table, shouted, and got promotions.

We know by now that after silencing the two women, the Michigan House passed that draconian bill. They are on the road to taking over women's choices and women's bodies. What would those male legislators' reaction have been to the passing of Byrum's vasectomy amendment?

Would they have felt upset? Angry? Intruded upon? Would they have thought the state was trying to take over their bodies and legislate and control what they could do with them? Would the men have, perhaps, raised their voices a few decibels in "inappropriate" displays of objection to this unconstitutional infringement of their bodily freedoms? Would they perchance have spoken up passionately in their own defense?

How would these male legislators have then reacted to being silenced and banned (Brown) and then ignored and banned (Byrum)? If they were women, any reaction they had to being intruded upon bodily and legislated would have constituted a tantrum. But as men, they are allowed to object loudly and to whatever degree is necessary to get their point across.

I am enraged by their labeling women's basic self-defense of their personal autonomy as a "tantrum." This male silencing of women speaking up strongly in their own defense is fear, and it is illegal. Houses of representatives have rules of order for a reason -- to get all discussion out into the open in an orderly fashion. Now those rules of order are deliberately being used to stifle discussion and to silence the voices of those most affected, negatively, by HB 5711.

I am enraged by their craven fear and their cowardice, shown openly in the House by their illegally, and quite literally, silencing the opposition.

I am enraged by their desire to use the law to infringe on any genuine rights they feel are not being exercised as they personally wish.

I am enraged by the double standard that allows men to punish women for speaking by making a tone argument. "You said it in a way that offends me," they said in essence. Every man, and every woman, understands what is being done when a man labels a woman's speech as a "tantrum." It is code. It says women are children, women are too emotional, women lack emotional self-control, and therefore we have the right and duty to step in and exert control for them.

What Brown and Byrum did on that House floor was as far from a tantrum as it is possible to get. They got up and fought for their health and lives, and the lives of all the women of Michigan. For exercising the right of any living creature, the right to defend oneself against destructive encroachment, these courageous women were punished by men who decided that the thing to do if they didn't get their own way was to throw a tantrum.

I'm enraged.

5:49 PM PT: Community Spotlight and recs -- how cool is that! And unexpected.Thank you, fellow Kossacks, for the honor of your reading and reccing.


Originally posted to ConsiderTheResults on Mon Jun 18, 2012 at 02:15 PM PDT.

Also republished by Sexism and Patriarchy, Michigan, My Michigan, Barriers and Bridges, and Community Spotlight.

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