l-r: Rep. Rashida H. Tlaib, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, Rep. Lisa Brown, Eve Ensler, and Rep. Stacy Erwin Oakes
Yesterday, Monday, June 18, 2012, upwards of 5,000 women and men and children descended on the state Capitol in Lansing, Michigan to reclaim that place of power for women and their vaginas. After being told that uttering the word “vagina” was dirty and “lacked decorum”, Representative Lisa Brown and her colleague Barb Byrum were censored and banned from speaking.
Eve Ensler, the creator of The Vagina Monologues, worked with Senator Rebekah Warren and others to stage a reading of the groundbreaking and magnificent play on the steps of the Capitol (You can read my interview with Eve Ensler HERE.) But, what transpired there was more than just a theatrical event. It was an empowering event and a tranformative event for the state of Michigan. The thousands that gathered shared their anger and disgust and their refusal to continue being treated like children or second class citizens.
I spoke with Lori Lamerand, Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. I told her how impressed I was that her group had gotten 400 people to the Capitol last Tuesday when there was a scheduled vote on the anti-woman, anti-choice omnibus package of bills. Describing the women, all dressed in pink, ringing the Capitol Rotunda and chanting, demanding to be heard and to be listened to, Lamerand said, “That day was the highlight of my career. It was so heartfelt and real.”
They did it again on Thursday, the day when the vote was rescheduled.
“We had about 150 that day,” she told me. “We thought that interest was dying down. But then the Republicans went yet another step further. Republicans are just the gift that keeps on giving.”
Lori Lamerand, President/CEO at Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan
I asked her what Planned Parenthood’s next step is.
“We don’t know at this point,” she said. “It depends on what the Republicans do. What we have shown is that we can respond quickly and effectively, no matter what they do.”
What follows is a photographic journey of Monday’s event and the reading of The Vagina Monologues on the steps of the Capitol building. All images with the watermark were taken by Anne C. Savage. The other crappy ones were by Chris Savage. You are free to use these images as long as you credit the photographer, do not edit them or remove the watermarks, and link back to this post. Please also drop us an email to let us know where you have posted them (you can use the contact link at the top of the page.)
[NOTE: Anne will be posting more photos along with some of her amazing interactive panoramic images from the event in the next day or so. Please stop back.]
l-r, Rep. Barb Byrum, Rep. Lisa Brown, Eve Ensler, and Sen. Rebekah Warren
The ACLU gave out nearly 1,000 of these shirts
Made In Vagina
Rep. Barb Byrum
The woman on the right is Julia Smith-Heck, who GOP creep Frank Foster called a “cunt” in public
State Rep. Lisa Brown
Rep. Barb Byrum
Sen. Rebekah Warren with the Great Seal of Michigan, signed by all of Michigan’s female legislators who were in attendance, a gift to Eve Ensler
Eve Ensler and Sen. Rebekah Warren
State Rep. Lisa Brown, nearly overwhelmed by the thunderous applause that greeted her when she was introduced
Sen. Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer
Eve Ensler hugs Rep. Lisa Brown
The event finished up with Eve Ensler giving a rousing and powerful speech. Video and transcript are below. Video is courtesy of Progress Michigan and used with permission.
Thanks for coming out and standing up for vaginas!
I am over you being afraid of vaginas! I am over trans-vaginal wands and dudes who want to control my vagina but are afraid to know my vagina, respect my vagina. Who can’t even SAY vagina!
I am over the over-regulation of women’s health clinics and women’s bodies and vaginas when those same over-regulators do nothing to protect those same women when they get pregnant, when they get raped, unemployed and sick and need more financial support.
I am over dudes who pretend to care about personhood and cut Planned Parenthood which makes the health of my personhood possible.
I am over forces who wanna call victims of rape “accusers” and not “victims”.
I am over you having the chutzpah to redefine rape so that a drugged woman or a date-raped woman wouldn’t even be considered a raped woman.
And, by the way, I’m over RAPE!
I’m over rape culture, rape mentality, and rape jokes.
I’m over people not understanding that rape is not a joke and I’m REALLY over being told I don’t have a sense of humor and women don’t have a sense of humor when most women I know (and I know a LOT of women) are really fucking funny.
We just don’t think an uninvited penis up our anus or up our vagina is a laugh riot.
I am over one in three women getting raped in the US military by their comrades.
I am over women still being silent about rape because they’re made to believe it’s their fault and they did something to make it happen.
I am over dudes voting against the Violence Against Women Act when one in every three women on this planet will be raped or beaten in their lifetimes.
The destruction and the muting of women is the destruction of life itself. No women: no future. Duh!
I am really over some powerful men pretending this deep love of fetuses and babies and life when we know it’s all about your terror of our sexuality and power. If you, if you really cared about life, you would never, ever consider letting a woman die rather than performing an abortion.
You would ask the life-givers, the women, what they need and want and you would listen to them. You would honor their vaginas, maybe even worship their vaginas. You would cherish the word “vagina” and know there is nothing dirty or disgusting about the place where all life comes from.
I am over the Michigan state legislature, and any legislature, censoring, rebuking and removing Lisa Brown because they find the word “vagina” contemptible or out of bounds or lacking decorum. My vagina’s got decorum!
And I am over all those other legislators that went along with it and didn’t stand up.
I want to say something to all the good men here: I’m a little over you. You are brave and wonderful. But where are you? You live with us. You make love with us. You father us. You befriend us. You brother us, get nurtured and mothered and eternally supported by us. So why aren’t you standing with us? Why aren’t you driven to the point of madness and action when you see us being raped and humiliated and censored? Why don’t you care about this as much as you do about sports?
I am over brilliant remarks being called “tantrums” and outspoken women being called “crazy” and lacking decorum when they are just smart.
I’m over it! We are over it! This the moment. This is the moment. This is where it all turns around. This is the moment when we talk back and speak back. This is where we rise up.This is where we say “yes” to Lisa Brown. “Yes” to Barbara Byrum. “Yes” to every brave woman who is standing with us today. Gretchen Whitmer. Barbara Byrum. Stacy Erwin-Oakes. Dian Slavens. Rashida Tlaib. Vicki Barnett. Joan Bauer. Ellen Cogen Lipton. Maureen Stapleton. And all the amazing actors and activists up on this stage.
This is where we say: “VAGINA!” Say it!
Not ’cause we’re provocative. Not ’cause we’re dirty. Not ’cause we’re trying to make you uncomfortable. Not ’cause we’re immoral or inappropriate.
‘Cause they’re beautiful and real and mystical and alive and powerful and SO ARE WE!
And I wanna say to all these Republicans: when we are free, YOU are free!
UPDATE: Here’s a rare photo of the photographer herself.
“I’ll be easy to spot in the crowd,” she said. “I’ll be wearing a pink t-shirt,” she said. Yeah, her and several thousand other women ; )