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article imageNew Hampshire Rep. Peter Hansen calls women 'vaginas' in email

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 18, 2013 in Politics
A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker Peter Hansen provoked outrage when he called women "vaginas" in an email debate with colleagues. He used the word as a synonym for women in a response to a speech on proposed changes to a law on the use of deadly force.
According to The Washington Post, New Hampshire legislators were debating a controversial "Stand Your Ground" bill. Representative Vaillancourt had challenged the bill with a story about the benefits of retreating from a potentially violent situation rather than escalating it with a confrontational stance that could lead to use of weapons.
Hansen, defending the law, said "children and vaginas" need to be able to defend themselves.
Susan the Bruce blog reports that in an April 1 internal email to colleagues on the official legislative mailing list, the state legislator wrote:
There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. 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 [sic] 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. The presence of one or both ingredients demands that a potential totally different outcome might have prevailed and that is the factor which I believe was dismissed in the HB 135 debate and vote.
Susan Bruce blog which first reported the email comment, said:
I'm pretty sure that when the Titanic was sinking, the captain's instructions were "women and children first," not "vagina's and children first." That the representative chose to describe women as "vagina's" is certainly an affront to half the population. That he failed to properly pluralize the word adds insult to idiocy.
State Rep. Rick Watrous (D) reacted to the legislator's choice of words, 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 listserv."
State Republican chair Jennifer Horn, also attacked Hansen, describing his comments as "disrespectful and shameful." Think Progress reports that in a statement released on Tuesday, Horn said: "Representative Hansen's comments are crude, offensive and have no place in public discourse. There is no excuse for anybody to use such disrespectful language -- especially an elected official. I strongly condemn his disrespectful and shameful remarks."
Hansen's choice of words is rather unfortunate in a state such as New Hampshire, which is the only state with a female governor and an entirely female Congressional delegation. The speaker of the state House and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court also are women!
The Huffington Post reports that NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire condemned Hansen, threatening to lead a campaign among voters against the legislator. The statement said: "We are shocked and disgusted by this derogatory comment. Women are more than their reproductive organs. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, students, professionals, and community leaders. We deserve more than being referenced by our body parts."
Harrel Kirstein, a spokesperson for the New Hampshire Democrats, described Hansen's comment as "shockingly inappropriate... disgusting behavior." He said that the negative attitude to women revealed in the lawmaker's comment explains the typical Republican position on issues such as birth control, abortion and equal pay.
The Huffington Post reports Kirsten said: "New Hampshire Republicans continue to make clear that they do not value women as equals. They refuse to support equal pay for equal work legislation, have routinely attacked access to critical health services for women, and now State House emails reveal how their legislators in Concord really view half of New Hampshire's population."
Initially, the legislator refused to back down and apologize. Susan the Bruce reports he said in a statement:
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.
But after widespread outrage, he finally issued an apology on Tuesday, claiming he was misinterpreted.
The Huffington Post reports he said in the 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.
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