Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown only had to say the word “vagina” once to be banned from speaking on the House floor last week.
In response to the gag order, she and at least nine of her fellow congresswomen will utter the word tonight more than 100 times on the state Capitol steps in Lansing while performing “The Vagina Monologues.”
“Vagina is not a dirty word,” Brown, 45, told ABC News, adding that tonight’s performance is aimed at “empowering” people to recognize that.
The Michigan Democrat said Republicans’ decision to revoke her right to speak during legislative debate Thursday “has really shined a light on the war on women.”
“I questioned if you think there’s something wrong with the word ‘vagina,’ what word would you like me to use instead?” Brown said. “I’m not going to be all ‘Little Women’ by using some cutesy name.”
Women’s activist and Tony-award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, who wrote “The Vagina Monologues,” contacted Michigan’s House Democrats Friday and volunteered to help perform on her episodic play, in which various actresses recite stories about their vaginas as a symbol of female empowerment.
“Censoring a woman for saying a word that is a body part that 51 percent of their constituents have is a repression that we have not and should not ever witness in this country,” Ensler, who is flying to Lansing for tonight’s event, said in a statement.
While debating a bill that would put restrictions on clinics that perform abortions and outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Brown said, “I’m flattered you’re all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no.”
House Majority Floor Leader informed the Democratic caucus the next day that the chairman would not call on Brown to speak during the day’s debate because she “failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”
Michigan’s House Republican leadership insisted that Brown was not silenced because she used the anatomically correct word “vagina,” but because she used the phrase “no means no.”
“The phrase ‘no means no’ is often used when talking about rape prevention,” said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger. “It was inappropriate for her to make that suggestion that someone supporting the bill was essentially supporting rape.”
Robert McCann, the spokesman for the Michigan House Democrats, said the Republicans’ gag order was nothing more than a “partisan stunt.”
“Clearly, what this is is them playing election-year politics,” McCann said. “It’s time for them to just apologize.”
Tonight’s performance begins at 6 p.m. ET. More than 3,000 people have said on Facebook that they will attend the event.