Saturday, August 17, 2013

"Government Small Enough To Fit In Your Vagina"

You want to shame me for having a female body? 

Shame on you for thinking that way about my body.
                                     -- women everywhere, 2013

Mindy I-B is a young woman I was lucky enough to meet recently. I blogged about her first 13 hour vigil to honor Texas Senator Wendy Davis' 13 hour filibuster blocking passage of draconian restrictions on women's access to safe, legal abortion on demand. 

On August 15, Mindy again took to the busiest intersection in Waterville, Maine to stand for 13 hours, communicating with the public about the need for women to have control over their own bodies and their own reproductive destinies. I was able to join her for a couple of hours in the middle of a hot summer day; I was pleased to see her wearing the orange t-shirt I had given her which I purchased from women in Texas, the sale of which benefits Planned Parenthood.
Here Mindy is joined by Linda Vayo, her former high school English teacher, who said she might have expected one of Mindy's older sisters to protest, but that Mindy had been so quiet during the years she was in school.  Mindy agreed, but she's concerned about ongoing attacks on women's reproductive rights.
She was also wearing tampons as earrings, to honor the Texas women who had their sanitary supplies confiscated when they wanted to enter their state legislature during the debate over the law. 

And, her sign had the "V" word!

When I arrived just after noon, Mindy said she had started at 7am and that within the first hour she was there two male police officers approached and complained about the verbiage on her sign. 

Did she think it was appropriate? one officer asked. Yes, completely appropriate, Mindy told me she replied.

Did she think that the word vagina might be offensive since it could be seen by children and women? the officer asked.  Mindy said she just let the absurdity of thinking that vaginas offend women sink in for a moment, and she thought that the officer seemed to realize how silly that sounded almost as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

Was there any chance they could convince her to put away her sign? he asked. Mindy replied in the negative, and he said he would consult his superiors before doing anything else.

By the time I got there just after noon, no police had returned. Apparently someone higher up in the chain of command had heard of the 1st amendment. Yay!

Mindy and I had time to talk about lots of things, including the self-education she has been engaging in around women's issues. Movies like the UnSlut Project and Miss Representation are some examples we discussed. Also The Invisible War, about sexual assault and its cover up in the military. And the Eve Ensler play, Vagina Monologues.

The shaming of women for their bodies figured largely in our conversations. Young women in particular are just plain refusing to be shamed, and I know that's another thing that her sign and her earrings were about.

I wasn't crazy about the GOP reference in Mindy's sign, because I don't like the false dichotomy we're always being sold where the other party in our corporate government is supposed to be seen as the champion of the people. Of course, they are better where reproductive health is concerned, but have bowed many times to pressure from conservatives to restrict access to both contraception and abortion where federal funds are concerned. (Apparently Democrats feel it is much better to use the funds to kill people who are already born in, say, Yemen.)

We talked about Mindy's sign and I shared that the "small enough" part of the slogan refers to conservative ideology about shrinking government down to a size small enough to drown it in a bathtub. The irony of government that aspires to be small while trying to legislate what women can do with their own wombs and vaginas was not lost on Mindy.
Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights (GRR!) members in yellow shirts, me and my sister Hope Savage in pink, plus Mindy and her friend Jessica Balucas in orange, all supporting Planned Parenthood in Portland, Maine July 30, 2013.
Mindy and I were also in action together at Portland City Council hearings recently on creating a safety buffer zone around the Planned Parenthood clinic there. Patients entering the clinic must contend with protesters who say vicious things, for example, (as the chief of police testified): "We will wrap your legs in barbed wire, and you will burn in hellfire."

I predict that the world will be hearing a lot more from Mindy.

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