When I arrived in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday to report as a citizen journalist from the Republican National Convention, I don't think I could have imagined that my first assignment when leaving the airport would be swinging by a vagina costume making party. Yes, that's right. I said it. Vagina. And I'll say it again. Vagina.
CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a national grassroots activist organization, will be infiltrating the Republican National Convention "to bring the message that the GOP war on women and reproductive rights must end." The group participated in yesterday's Coalition March on the RNC and earlier today protested wearing larger than life handmade vagina costumes at an NRA and Congressional Sportsmen shootout competition in Land O'Lakes, Fla.
Since when has vagina, a female organ that has two beautiful functions -- sexual intercourse and childbirth -- become a dirty word?
The answer: since Rep. Todd Akin opened his mouth.
Akin's gaffe, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down," was followed by a deluge of missteps by Republicans, most of them men, who have tried to either support him like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee or quickly distance themselves as Mitt Romeny and Paul Ryan have tried to do in recent days. Outrage has quickly spread all over the country this past week. Men have no understanding of what it's like to be a woman nor should they have a right to legislate what a woman may choose or not choose to do with her vagina.
CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin said on Saturday, "We mostly focus on the issues of war but when we saw this issue was just imploding and as a women focused and women initiated peace group we felt obliged that we had to talk about this."
Bright and colorful in-your-face vagina costumes worn by proud women (and a few brave men) will be parading outside Republican-sponsored events throughout RNC week in Tampa. "We got creative and we had a good time not only making the vaginas but thinking about how to use them creatively and how to bring that issue into our message" says Benjamin.
Leading up to the national conventions, outrage over the Republican's anti-women stance, promoted by Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, has been gaining momentum this summer. In June Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown said "vagina" during a debate over an anti-abortion bill on the Michigan house floor and was censored from speaking in the state capital. A thousand protestors showed up to hear the reciting of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues rallying for Brown's support instead.
I was a freshman in college when Ensler's Vagina Monologues was first presented on stage. The monumental event was probably the first time in my life when I realized it was okay for women to speak about vaginas publicly -- that was 1996.
Sixteen years later here women are, young and old, once again faced with the task of standing up for our reproductive rights by wearing vagina costumes and holding signs that say "Read My Lips" and "Hands Off My Vagina." Could I imagine a few days ago I would be writing about vaginas for The Huffington Post? No. But I must say, as the first official day of the Republican National Convention convenes in Tampa, it feels quite empowering to speak with woman who can say "my beautiful vagina."