Periodically in politics, there are events that create a dual reaction in all thinking people: 1) peals of laughter at the absurdity of it all and 2) the dreaded realization that many of our leaders are completely out of touch. Such was the dual reaction to the news that the Republican leadership of the Florida state legislature wishes to censor the word “uterus” from being said aloud in their chambers, in response to a Democrat making a joke about how his wife should incorporate her uterus if she wants to maintain her right to bodily autonomy. Obviously, the Republicans really just didn’t like the joke, which hit too close to home, and were looking for an excuse to condemn it. But the excuse was real life concern trolling, in the guise of claiming “uterus” was a dirty word, with a side helping of “think about the children!”
The internet responded with the requisite contempt to this censorship. The hashtag #uterus exploded, and the general sentiment was that people who can’t tolerate hearing the syllables you-ter-us spoken aloud should not be filing 18 separate bills aimed at snatching control of the organs away from the rightful owners. If you want to control something that badly, you should be able to say it out loud.
Among the “children” being invoked as a shield to protect anti-choice legislators from confronting their misogyny and hypocrisy were the congressional pages. I personally found this to be interesting, because pages are teenage kids. And teenagers are especially being targeted by anti-choicers, with parental notification laws and attempts to block sex education and contraception access. In other words, conservatives believe that a girl of 15, 16 or 17 is too young to hear the word “uterus,” but she’s plenty old enough to be forced to bear a child against her will. Which seems to bring up an interesting dilemma. How do Florida Republicans expect the young women who they would force to have babies to handle the prenatal care if they’re too young to hear the names of body parts spoken aloud? When a young woman is going through labor against her will, how do you shield her from the words and knowledge of what’s going on down there? Would they suggest we just sedate teenagers who are going through mandatory pregnancies throughout the process so their innocence isn’t destroyed by knowing what goes on during pregnancies they’re actually experiencing by government mandate?
I probably shouldn’t even mention this dilemma, because knowing how much the anti-choice movement likes to control what goes on in a doctor’s office—mandating ultrasounds, mandating unscientific scripts to be read aloud, mandating waiting periods—I wouldn’t put it past them to pass a law banning doctors from using scientifically accurate terms for body parts in front of teenage patients. Think of all the fun that the anti-choice legislators could have creating a list of approve euphemisms to use in front of teenage patients, both willing and unwilling to be giving birth. Or maybe just ban certain words from being said in front of female patients altogether. With all the waiting periods to “think it over” and mandated fake counseling that anti-choice lawmakers are passing, it’s clear they never think women are ever really grown up enough to make their own decisions. Surely, the child-brained female half of the race will never be grown up enough to hear the word “uterus” spoken aloud.
But while it’s aggravating that the same people who want to micromanage how women use their uteruses flinch at the word “uterus,” and falsely claim it’s a dirty word, it’s not really surprising, is it? It makes perfect sense that someone who flinches at the word “uterus” does so out of a combination of prudery and misogyny, which just happen to be the same two elements that form the anti-choice mentality. It also betrays a childish view of human sexuality, which is especially ironic as the people who are acting so immaturely in this situation think that it’s others that can’t be trusted with grown-up decisions. Projection, I suppose, but no matter—they should attend to themselves and their own issues before taking it out on strange women.
The larger question is this: How has it come to be that so much power has gone to a movement that is basically ruled by irrationality, misogyny, a childish view of sexuality and biology, and such over-the-top prudery? Most Americans simply don’t think this way. Which isn’t to say that Americans can’t be sexist and prudish, but even sexist and prudish Americans would be hard-pressed to actually act like they think “uterus” is a dirty word that can’t fall on the ears of young people who’ve gone through puberty and are working actual jobs in the adult world. Clearly, many people who are supporting the anti-choice movement through votes and dollars have no idea how ridiculous it all is, and I would hope they’d rethink it. In way, it even makes sense that this would happen. It’s so implausible that the leadership of an entire party in a statehouse would act like Dana Carvey’s church lady, that you wouldn’t believe it unless someone actually showed you the facts. Because of this, I imagine that many people who casually support social conservatism don’t realize what kind of stupidity they’re signing off on.
What this tells me is that there really is just an ignorance gap in the populace. I’m usually one to say that people vote for who and what they want, and I’m not usually one to suggest people are ignorant of what they’re buying when they support politicians, ideologies, or social movements. But in this case, it’s just too implausible that a significant percentage of the population could be so misogynist and so prudish that this behavior makes sense to them. The only question left, then, is how to expose these ugly realities to the casual supporters of the anti-choice movement?