There are 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives. Penises occupy 83 of them. Vaginas are sadly underrepresented, and indeed two of them were recently prohibited from speaking out on, of all topics, women’s reproductive rights.
We are biological beings, but much more complex than our vas diferens, and vive la différence.
If we’re to take our cue from government, words are important.
Human resource consultant, ethics educator and coach Robbie Glantz of Glantz & Associates would agree. She teaches, “Words have impact. They can heal, comfort and nurture or cause pain, confusion and shame. Therefore it is wise to act as if what we say and do counts, because it does.”
With that in mind, I’ve been contemplating the word “vagina” right along with the representatives. Not in English, but in Algonquin. “Squaw” is their word for vagina, but the term has become slang and is duly censured by most politically correct speakers. Literature is replete with derogatory words for minority women, and most of those words have disappeared from common usage. When you look them up in the dictionary, they are described as offensive.
The meaning of “squaw” seems largely glossed over by most folks. But Maine state Rep. Donna Loring says, “If you go onto a reservation and call a woman a squaw, you’d be damn lucky to get out of there alive.” Native American populations shun the use of the word, and for that reason alone it should disappear from our local lore.
Congress has many important words to worry about: insider trading, racial profiling, undeclared war. Not to drone on about all the bad things government does, but penis-free planes should not bomb vaginas and children.
Many name changes have occurred over the years to bring language up to date. American Indians are a living people, not mascots. It’s our chance now to be arbiters of good taste and decorum. A small action that raises awareness of words and their effect on listeners, readers and tourists will only enhance our area.
California has a much bigger problem with its Squaw Valley than little old Colorado, but that doesn’t absolve us from taking a look at Squaw Pass and Squaw Pass Road. A sign of the times is to change a few road signs so that as you drive over Echo Mountain, you would see Echo Pass and Echo Pass Road.
Hannah B. Hayes is a former Both Sides Now debate columnist, small-business owner and peace activist. She has been a part of the Evergreen community for more than 35 years.