There’s nothing dirtier than female reproductive organs. At least, that’s the message Florida state legislators are sending to their teenage pages.
Last week, the Florida state house debated a 20-week abortion ban, as part of a so-called “crimes against the unborn” measure that would give stiffer penalties to criminals who assault pregnant women if the assault results in the death of the fetus.
The Florida legislature makes use of pages and messengers — students who spend a week running errands for lawmakers and learning about how government works — except in the case of this one debate when the Republican leaders sent the teenagers away. Apparently the thought of their impressionable young minds being tainted by thoughts of abortion and vaginas was too much to bear.
Makes sense, when you think about it. I mean, Florida doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to providing comprehensive sex education to the state’s students. House leaders probably just thought the pages wouldn’t know what they were talking about anyway.
This isn’t the first time Florida Republicans have pulled something like this. In 2011, state House Republican leadership scolded a Democrat during yet another abortion debate for saying “uterus.” That’s right. In a debate about abortion, it’s apparently inappropriate to say “uterus.” Why? Not because these are adults with the emotional maturity of a sheltered 5-year-old. Nope. It’s because kids today just can’t handle that kind of language.
I wish I could say that I was surprised to hear Florida House Republicans did not learn their lesson, but I’m not. I’m not surprised that a political party that has made it its mission to turn back the clock on women’s rights is trying to pass its pathologies on to a new generation.
Why should I be? This is only a symptom of a larger problem. We live in a world in which all things feminine are bad, gross and not to be talked about in polite company. We live in a post-code world. Depictions of women enjoying their sexuality are considered pornographic. Women are expected to walk the line of attractive, but not slutty, which is a distinction often only made in the eye of the beholder.
It goes beyond sex, though. Fashion is undeniably an art, yet is a form that is derided as shallow. It’s also stereotypically female. Teenage girls are derided for fan-girling out over boy bands, when they are really just expressing their enthusiasm for something they love. You don’t have to like all of these things. Indeed, I was a teenage girl once and I didn’t like most of the things that other teenage girls liked. But it’s hard to deny that when you want to classify something as vacuous, the easiest way to do it is to connect it to a teenage girl.
There are many levels on which to be angry and frustrated at the Florida GOP for their actions here. It assumes that teenagers can’t handle a discussion on reproductive health, even though some of these pages and messengers are young women who will be directly impacted by decisions made on the floor of the state legislature. Even though one hopes that all of these young women and men will grow up to be civically-engaged adults with knowledge of the pressing issues of the day. Government intrusion into a woman’s uterus is perfectly acceptable to debate, just not in front of young ears. Actions like this obscure the workings of a government that are actively trying to take away the rights of women. All in the name of the children.
For what it’s worth, the leadership did let the pages and messengers back in after the abortion debate was over. The next topic on the agenda? Guns. It’s a mad world.
Photo Credit: Kate Ausburn via Flickr