Julia Gazdag
writer | producer | photographer

State Rep Calls All Women Vaginas, is Surprised When People Bring It

This piece was first published on HG April 18, 2013

State Rep Calls All Women Vaginas, is Surprised When People Bring It

Here’s a tip, friends: when emailing colleagues in your work life, try to refrain from referring to groups of people based on their shared genitalia. I know that, instinctively, your first impulse is to email your fellow State Representative and refer to all women simply as, “vagina’s” [sic], but this may, in fact, be a less than professional move. Oh wait, no, that was just New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Hansen. That’s who that was. Everyone else, carry on with not calling all women “vagina’s” or misusing apostrophes.

Hansen was responding to a fellow NH State Representative’s floor speech on gun control, in which he talked about retreating being a better approach than using deadly force. Below, the gemiest gem of a paragraph from Hansen’s email, which he had sent to several colleagues as part of an email debate:

"What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina's of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims."

I guess someone ditched the State Capitol sexual harassment seminar (and English class) eternity years in a row. Or 9th grade bio where, among other revolutionary scientific principles, they teach that the female body is, in fact, comprised of various elements in addition to the vagina (it’s true, I looked it up). For example, I am currently typing this with my non-vaginal fingers, which are comprised of non-labial bone and tissue.

Both State Republicans and Democrats replied immediately, noting their offense at Hansen’s choice of words. State Rep. Rick Watrous called him out, saying, “Are you really using ‘vaginas’ as a crude catch-all for women? Really? Please think before you send out such offensive language on the legislative listserve [sic].” State Republican chair Jennifer Horn called Hansen’s choice of words, “disrespectful and shameful.” Let’s just rewind and marvel at how Hansen wrote something this ignorantly offensive to a STATE LEGISLATOR LISTSERV.

Hansen’s response:

"Having a fairly well educated mind I do not need self appointed wardens to A: try to put words in my mouth for political gain and B: Turn a well founded strategy in communication into an insulting accusation, and finally if you find the noun vagina insulting or in some way offensive then perhaps a better exercise might be for you to re-examine your psyche..."

Listen. You can’t throw apostrophes around all willy-nilly like confetti at a parade, misuse capitalization, write run-on sentences until the grammar fairy dies a death so horrible that no amount of clapping can bring her back, and then try to win an argument by claiming to be well-educated. With regard to turning “a well [–>  <–] founded strategy” into an “accusation,”

As for finding the word vagina offensive, Hansen clearly missed the point. The word itself isn’t offensive – it’s a medical term for lady brambles and it would be nice to see a Republican politician not running from it, if he knew how to use it correctly. The offense here is that he used female genitalia to refer to all women, in essence reducing them to being identified solely by their reproductive bits. And that is some f*ckery, which we will not have.

Once enough people had taken offense to Hansen’s comment that it started taking up more of his time and energy than he was interested in giving, he softened his reply to a flimsy apologetic statement:

"Can there be any doubt my comment is being misinterpreted and taken completely out of context? It was not, and is not, my intention to demean women at any time. It is apparent that the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted, the true goal of the message lost and for that I apologize to those who took offense."

Please note that he doesn’t apologize for having been an insensitive, derogatory sexist of a public representative in a public space. He’s sorry you were offended. It’s your fault for being an oversensitive idiot and not knowing the he has nothing against vaginas women. Who dares to quote an entire paragraph from an email that his State Congress did a collective spit-take to? Clearly the problem is that it’s “out of context.” Whether or not Hansen feels remorse for his crimes against grammar remains to be seen.