Synechdoche is all very well but

Good lord.

A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker referred to women as “vaginas” in an email to colleagues on the official legislative electronic mailing list earlier this month, drawing outrage from women’s rights groups.

No. Nobody did that. Right?

State Rep. Peter Hansen (R) made the comment, first reported by New Hampshire political blogger Susan the Bruce, in an April 1 email debate with colleagues about a “stand your ground” gun bill. Hansen’s colleague, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R) had delivered a lengthy floor speech about the benefits of retreating instead of using deadly force, to which Hansen replied in an email:

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.

Well that’s remarkable.


  1. Ysanne says

    The details over at Susan the Bruce contain an additional gem:
    When another Rep. replied to this asking

    “Children and vagina’s”??!! 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.

    Hansen seriously tried to defend himself with the following:

    Rep Watrous,
    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.

    Apart from the irony of someone claiming to be educated after using vagina’s as a plural form, this means that Hansen should be consistently referred to as a penis (or dick, informally) from now on, particularly on the legislative listserve.

  2. alai says

    I wish I could think of any way to describe it, whatsoever… I’m pretty stunned by that.

    There’s “predictive text errors”, and then there’s a levels of insight into the dark recesses of someone’s soul I wouldn’t expect to see outside of rigorous Freudian analysis alongside massively hypertherapeutic doses of sodium pentathol.

  3. timanthony says

    Hmm… 50% of humans are of below average intelligence; 50% of lawmakers are Republicans: Coincidence?

  4. Hamilton Jacobi says

    … drawing outrage from women’s rights groups.

    (MRA mode) This is a shocking display of sexism. What about the penis’s? Penis’s can be victims of gun violence too. Will no one think of the penis’s? When will the bigotry ever end? Oh, the humanity!

  5. peterh says

    Along with being monstrously insensitive, that cretin has somehow avoided hearing of the well-publicized case of the young Oklahoma widow who protected herself and her infant by blowing away an intruder who was seeking her recently-dead husband’s medication.

  6. embertine says

    As the learned gentleman obviously has no problem with people being defined and labelled by their genitals, I’m sure he won’t mind if his colleagues all refer to him as “that dickhead” in future.

    Please note his Epic Notpology of DOOM™ as well. He even pulls out the classic “I’m sorry that you were offended”. Career ending?

  7. carlie says

    Yeah, pretty amazing for him to pull the prude angle and claim that he was just using a correct anatomical word and that the complainers just couldn’t handle it. Hopefully that won’t get him any traction, and will instead make him more of a laughingstock.

  8. kestra says

    It took him a whole day to decided maybe an apology would go over better than snidely casting aspersions of sexism on the colleagues who called him out. It was standard “I apologize if you were offended” fare, and included the following gem:

    “It is apparent that the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted,”

    Uh huh. I would really like to hear, in full, what *exactly* the original intent of that remark was, that it could be misinterpreted. As I read it, Hansen used the word “vagina” to mean “woman”, thus dismissing half the population as only their sex organs (not even their reproductive organs! *Just* the part that’s interesting to penises. Really.)

    So, was the original intent to point out that actual vaginas couldn’t use guns properly? Or that vaginas are simple creatures like children that can’t defend themselves? While both those points are true, per se, I’m pretty sure that those equipped with vaginas generally know you shoot a gun with your *hands* NOT your genitals, and that their vaginas do need protection and shelter, which they graciously already provide.

  9. spanner says

    Is it possible that Hansen meant it sarcastically? Like the way it is used here, sometimes, to highlight that someone has ignored or dismissed or devalued women? Maybe he was pointing out that Vaillancourt had left out a significant group of people in his speech and used “vagina’s” to emphasize that. The email as a whole, and that he went on to write “children and women and mothers” (thus replacing the offensive term with correct and humanizing terms), suggests this interpretation, to me. I don’t know – I don’t know these people and don’t know Hansen’s history – but I know I see similarly constructed arguments by the good guys.

  10. spanner says

    Oh, no! Not the holy water! It burnnnsssss … oh. Wait. No, it doesn’t. It’s just water.
    (Sorry. That is painfully unoriginal but I find I can’t help myself.)

    No, not devil’s advocate exactly. Perhaps a too-generous reading of Hansen’s remark. I thought it was a not-usual word to use and that is part of what made me re-read and reconsider my first reaction. In context, it still seems to me to be more a comment on the other guy’s speech than a reflection of his own views about women. Maybe it’s both. Probably he should not have used it even in that way and that is enough reason to slam him.
    I have trouble sorting these things out. I am old and prudish and overly sensitive and have a strong aversion to some gender-based slurs – don’t want to use them, hear them, see them. I have to work hard to read through the posts here that include those words (used ironically or sarcastically or whatever-ly) and I try to do it because I respect and admire the author and want to read what she has to say. In that reading, I also look for the how and the why of using those terms in an argument. I applied similar effort to Hansen’s comment and it came out okay, if not ideal, is all I’m saying. Again, it is certainly possible that my interpretation is too generous, and I posted my comment to see if anyone else saw it that way or could correct me.
    Just want to add that whatever trouble I have with regard to the uses of certain words is my own problem, obviously, and no one else’s. Hmm. Perhaps I do need an exorcism! Mostly, I think I just need to keep trying to figure things out. Luckily, this thread is now old, in internet-time, and my working-things-out-in-public should go largely unnoticed, but it’s nice to find the space to do so.

  11. spanner says

    Oh, right. Threads are never too old for the host to notice.
    Thank you for that! I was worried it was just annoying.

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