New Hampshire State Rep. Peter Hansen (R) sparked a firestorm in the state house after he sent a recent email to an internal house listserv that referred to women as “vaginas.” Hansen was defending the state’s “stand your ground” bill, which one lawmaker had challenged with stories about how retreating from a confrontational situation is more effective than escalating it with weapons. Hansen managed to offend both sides of the aisle in a mangled argument claiming children and “vaginas” need to be able to defend themselves:
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.
Hansen quickly raised the ire of his colleagues. State Rep. Rick Watrous (D-NH) incredulously replied, “Are you really using ‘vaginas’ as a crude catch-all for women? Really?” Later, State Republican chair Jennifer Horn released a strongly worded statement denouncing Hansen: “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.”
NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire also blasted the dismissive comment, saying “Women are more than their reproductive organs…We deserve more than being referenced by our body parts.”
Hansen is surrounded by clear evidence of this. This year, New Hampshire became the only state with an entirely female Congressional delegation and a female governor. Both the Speaker of the House and the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s chief justice are also women.
Despite the backlash from all sides, Hansen has barely apologized. In an another email responding to the outcry, Hansen wrote, “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.”
Later, he released a statement claiming he was taken out of context, saying “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.”