Representative Gets the Vapors

From the Detroit News:

“What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

The offensive word?  Vagina.

What is this, elementary school or the 19th Century?

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    What is this, elementary school or the 19th Century?

    Sorry, it’s today’s bible thumping wing of the Republican Party. Instead of going to church they should be seeing a psychiatrist.

  2. Ken says:


    I really, really, really want to be with the spin on this one.

    It suits my general opinion of culturally conservative politicians.

    But what she said was: “”Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no,'” Brown said Wednesday.”

    Perhaps one can say “that was a very mild, hardly edgy comment, it’s silly to discipline her for that,” I could be with you.

    But everyone is spinning it as “she was disciplined for using the word ‘vagina,'” which does not seem to be the case, unless I am missing some statement from the politicians here. More accurately, she was disciplined for a rhetorical flourish in which she compared the proposed legislation to a threatened sexual assault by the Speaker, which flourish incorporated the word “vagina.”

    I think the flourish is undignified and sophomoric — I think the point about bodily autonomy can be made without it — but I agree it’s a bit silly to make it a subject of discipline. But I also think it’s edging towards propaganda to say she was disciplined for saying “vagina.”

  3. Ken,

    I guess I’m having a hard time seeing what she said as an allegory to sexual assault.

    And if anything is sophomoric, it’s the legislation itself and the Michigan GOP, which has apparently solved all of that state’s economic and fiscal problems and can now concentrate on issues such as this.

  4. Ken says:

    She’s saying that the legislation is like the Speaker wanting to get into her vagina and she’s having to remind him that no means no.

    Now, I could be wrong — maybe some Republican made a statement saying “she said the v word.”

    But I suspect they would have had the same reaction if she had said “your interest in my genitals” or “private parts.” The oversensitivity to criticism is the story. The attempt to spin it as Victorianism, rather than thin-skinnedness, is unpersuasive.

  5. @Ken: I suppose it depend on what :”it” means in the Representative’s statement. Does “it” refer to the entire sentence as being something that should not be said in mixed company or was “it” the word?

    Typically “it” in this type of statement seems to be linked to a given word, so I am not so sure your interpretation makes sense, but maybe.

  6. So it depends on what the meaning of “it” is. We need to get Bill Clinton to consult on this one, pronto.

  7. Further, if the objection was to the alleged metaphor, why not say that rather than say “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”

    What’s “it”? A metaphor about sexual assault or the word vagina?

  8. al-Ameda says:

    Just more evidence that this country is in decline.
    Maybe it’s the 24/7 infotainment/news cycle but … These stories are kind of depressing.

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    What’s funny about this sort of thing — in a tragicomedy sense — is that the pious right wing is a parody of itself and its denizens and habitues don’t even realize it.

  10. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: In defense of Ken, I find it a little difficult to get with the inference you are trying to promote here also. The whole thing is sophomoric, but when objection to “vagina” is placed in the context of what she said, while I don’t think I would go as far as the able(?) representative of Nashville did in being offended, I will not accuse him of being trapped in either the 19th century of elementary school.

    Most people will probably disagree with me, but this is a fail to my mind. This is something that Doug would run with.

  11. Ken says:

    Though it’s always nice to be agreed with, the snipe at Doug is unwarranted and silly. I would be thrilled to be as good a blogger as Doug.

  12. Brett says:

    To be fair – some women do feel that these extremely invasive procedures required by the bill are a form of sexual assault being unwillingly inflicted upon them.

  13. @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: Perhaps so. However, I do find it a bit silly to fret over word choice (or even metaphor choice since, as Brett notes, it actually goes beyond metaphor) given the rather serious issues at state.

    I just found the quotation above to be either a) a truly silly response or b) faux outrage.

  14. Franklin says:

    Callton clearly overreacted, he sounds like a bit of a nutcase. But I’m with Ken – the usage of “no means no” sure seems like a reference to sexual assaults.

    Now, do some find it just as invasive to legislate the vagina as to forcibly enter it? Yes they do, so I at least understand her statement. But I don’t particularly think her manner is a good way of convincing people.

  15. mantis says:

    Does Callton think women aren’t aware of the existence of vaginas? And who still talks about not saying things “in mixed company” anyway?

    What a buffoon.