March 13 2013 12:00 AM

In response to a Republican-led attack on abortion rights, thousands descend upon the Capitol for a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” led by female state legislators

Monday, June 18 — You’ve never seen the word in one area so much in your life, let alone at the foot of the Capitol steps.


Signs and chants echoed the word across the front lawn of the Capitol in downtown Lansing on Monday night. Several thousand people showed up to support Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, after they were banned from speaking on the House floor last week because they said “vagina” and “vasectomy,” respectively.

The legislators were speaking in opposition to Republican-led bills that, as Brown put it, “turn back on the clock” on women’s reproductive rights.

The ban has sparked national media attention and Brown has appeared on several national news programs to talk about the incident. With so much energy turned toward the issue, Eve Ensler, playwright of the famous production, “The Vagina Monologues,” decided to come to Lansing and help the female legislators of Michigan put on a performance of their own.

“I’m beyond excited,” said Maggie Martin, a Michigan State University arts and humanities major, before the show. “I was involved with the MSU production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’ and it changed my life. The show speaks to the issue of not saying ‘vagina,’ how fear of the word is damaging and how embracing the word is actually very empowering.”

The fear surrounding the word is used to make bad decisions on women’s behalf, Martin said.

The situation involving Brown and Byrum has Martin “appalled,” but she said the “backlash has been extraordinary.”

“There has been a terrific response to such a horrible thing. What the House is doing is wrong but the opposition to those who don’t support it is even worse,” she said regarding the ban of representatives.

“What we have seen in an embarrassment,” said Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, to the roaring crowd. “We need to take a stand and that begins tonight.”

Brown, Whitmer and Byrum partnered up with Ensler, eight other female legislators and 21 actors to perform “The Vagina Monologues” on the steps of the Capitol. The cheers from the performance could be heard nearly a mile away.