That’s how many attended Monday night’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” on the steps of Michigan’s State Capitol building in Lansing. The play was put on by female legislators and actresses in protest of a ban by Republican House leaders on Representative Lisa Brown, because she used the word “Vagina” on the floor of the House. She used it in the context of a debate over a repressive anti-abortion measure—which raises a question. Exactly what did the legislature think abortions were about, if not vaginas?
Now women across the nation are reacting not only to the Michigan body’s restrictions on free speech, but also to the implications about how men view the female body. “One of my counterparts, Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said ‘vagina’ is such a disturbing word that he would never deign to use it in the presence of women or ‘mixed company’,” said Rep. Brown. “This, from a man who earned a bachelor’s degree in biology.”
The author of the play, Eve Ensler, said, “If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion … was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men’s terror of women’s sexuality and power, I think it’s fully evidenced here.”
“The Vagina Monologues” is a sixteen-year-old play that Ensler wrote to illustrate how women are suppressed through their sexuality. It has been performed worldwide, but Ensler flew in from California specifically for this one presentation. She was rhapsodic about Monday night’s performance.
“You know, it was one of the most amazing performances I’ve seen, and I think, in some ways, ‘The Vagina Monologues’ was in its truest form today because it was not just about the art of it—it was truly about the message and the reason for it. To see representatives, lawmakers, heads of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, amazing actors come together for the liberation of women, for women’s rights, in front of 5,000 people in Lansing, Michigan, I feel really good.”
She was quite affected by the experience. “One of the things that moved me so much tonight is how many young women came up to thank both of us for giving them a voice, for allowing them to be authentic, for allowing them to love their bodies, for allowing them to feel agency over their bodies and their rights.”
Ensler’s play is often performed as a fundraiser for V-Day, an organization she founded to wage a global fight against violence toward women.
The Michigan event was organized through, what else?…a Facebook page named “Vaginas take back the Michigan Capitol.”
So while an enthusiastic crowd was supporting the female legislators dramatic debut, where were the Republican males who triggered the occasion through their act of suppression? Last Friday, they took off on a 5-week break, no doubt before someone could use the word “penis.” Or maybe because they didn’t want to hear the three parting V-words their colleague, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, used to send off Monday night’s audience: “Vagina, Voice, Vote.”