Today is Juneteenth, a holiday recognized in 41 states celebrating the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. Today we celebrate freedom.
I originally wanted to make this post only about Juneteenth, but then the GOP banned State Rep. Lisa Brown for saying the word vagina and I couldn’t resist writing about that too. Since I am only posting once a week for the summer months, to give me more time for other writing and such, I have to be selective about what I post on.
So I want to make a link between two very different things. Juneteenth is a holiday celebrating emancipation from slavery. Slavery was about money, power, and control. People with money and power didn’t want to give that up. Silencing women for saying the word vagina is an attempt to continue to make women’s bodies dirty and vulgar and to make women inappropriate, unrefined or uneducated, and objects that can be talked about as if they had no rights over their bodies and minds. Silencing women in this way is a part of maintaining power and control over women as well as using women for low cost or free labor in and out of the workplace.
There’s the link- power, money, control. Or freedom, liberty, equality.
Don’t think I’m trying to say they are the same thing. They are not. But there are similar underlying themes.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was written and read more than two years before the slaves heard the news that they were free. They didn’t have phones or the internet at that point, but please. The people in power wanted to hold off as long as possible with that news.
Celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866 and it now is a designated day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Unfortunately only 41 states celebrate it.
Last week in Michigan, while speaking about abortion bills on the floor, two women politicians were banned from addressing the Michigan House of Representatives after one used the word “vagina” and the other argued for regulating vasectomies during a debate over an anti-abortion bill.
The house bill passed 70 votes to 39 and will introduce new rules and insurance requirements for abortion providers, make it an offence to force a woman to have an abortion, and regulate the disposal of foetal remains. That may sound like it’s not a big deal, but it is opposed because it is part of a package of proposed legislation that is one of the most hardline recent attempts at passing anti-abortion legislation in the US.
We keep coming back to this question of abortion because it is one main door into the regulation of women’s bodies and power over women. Whether or not you believe abortion should be a legal right, the issue of abortion is being used as a way to have power over women.
It is being used to divide women- whether or not we think abortion should be legal and available and whether we believe women should be able to make the decision about their bodies whether, or not, to have an abortion.
It is being used to connect to methods of contraception, like the pill and the morning after pill (which is now believed to stop ovulation not stop fertilized eggs), and to work towards banning all reproductive choices for women in order to control women.
It is being used to reduce women’s choices in the world at large and therefore delegating us to the position of second class citizens.
By slowly taking away women’s choices, it leads to women having fewer rights and therefore being inferior in the society to men and therefore not recognized as fully human. This leads to more violence being perpetrated against women.
Saying the word vagina should not be offensive. That’s absurd. It’s the actual official word for that body part. Which is one reason it’s perfect that Eve Ensler flew to Michigan to perform the Vagina Monologues on the capital steps last night. Within the Monologues, there are many different names for the vagina. Would it have been more appropriate for Lisa Brown to say “Coochie Snorcher?”
Somewhere from 2500 to 5000 (the numbers differ in reports) people were there last night to watch it, which brings tears to my eyes- party for the sheer number of Michiganers who were there for it and partly because the war is on and some people still don’t realize it. If you have believed there is no War on Women, this is just more evidence that there is.
Oppressing women is an all inclusive affair. It’s not only about abortion. It is about taking away women’s rights, women’s existence, women’s humanity.
Making our body parts unspeakable and the words for them vulgar. Making us sluts if we want to plan our families, careers, and lives. Keeping our labor “cheap” and underpaid.
Making us hate ourselves and other women. There is nothing wrong with the word vagina and there is nothing wrong with us standing out against those who are trying to oppress us.
Today is Juneteenth. It is a celebration of the freedom of African American people. It is not the same as the freedom being sought for women everywhere, but both are a fight for power, for equality, for justice.
In celebration of Juneteenth and of freedom and justice, we must fight for equality of all people.