Earlier this week, Susan Sarandon shocked intellectuals, grammarians, politicos, and fans—as well as a few women—when she explained her support for New York City mayoral candidate Bill DiBlasio over Christine Quinn by saying, “You can’t vote your vagina.”
Professor Judith “Trouble” Butler, known for her contention that gender arises not from biology but from performance, said she expected more from an “actor” (Butler’s preferred term): “I am disappointed that someone so experienced in portrayal,—including the portrayal of varied vaginas—would embrace an unproblematized connotation” of the v-word: “since the term ‘vagina’ is a mere social construct, the statement ‘you can’t vote your vagina’ is tautologous. Contrary to popular impression, it is nothing but an empty signifier; you can’t vote your vagina because there is nothing there to vote with.” Public intellectual and fellow vagina-bearer Camille Paglia was unreceptive: she insisted, “My Cave of Wonders is certainly social, but it most definitely not constructed. It is not a nonentity. In any case, Paglia’s Vagina is full up not-voting for Hillary Clinton’s Vagina and has no time left to not-vote for Christine Quinn’s Vagina.” Paglia did make time, though, to deride Butler as a “long overrated doyenne of gender studies,” which led some pundits to conclude that Paglia must conceive of her entire vagina a no-vote zone, occupied only by herself.
Across town, grammarmongers decried Sarandon’s employment of her vagina as a direct object, grieving the absence of a preposition: the anonymous author of the blog “Write Anal,” exclaimed, “After all it has done for her, doesn’t Sarandon’s Vagina deserve better? Can’t we fit just one more small word in there?” The creator of “Anal,” whose vaginal orientation is unknown, went on to compare Sarandon’s genital shorthand to common, colloquial formulations such as “Hope it goes well” and “Have a good one,” which risk “literally destroying the English language. Even in negative form, Sarandon’s introduction of the phrase ‘(you can’t) vote your vagina’ could drive us all into a messy linguistic abyss.”
A respondent to the “Anal” blog, identified only by the gender-neutral handle “Free2B,” mused, “At first I thought Sarandon meant that she would not vote with her vagina. I’m open to that, but how would you do that, anyway? Are the voting booths made for that? It sounds like some acrobatics would be required to reach and everything. And if she wasn’t talking about not voting with her vagina, what did she mean she was going to not do? She couldn’t, like, not vote without her vagina, could she? So, I figure she meant she would not vote for her vagina, and hey, that makes me sad, because I’m down with her vagina. :-( PAW-BFN!”
Sarandon’s fan base also expressed surprise and indignation: one asked, “Fine, you can’t vote your vagina, but then, can you ticket your vagina? I mean, I thought Sarandon was good in Thelma and Louise and Bull Durham, but now I realize she may have been cast just because of her vagina. Now I wonder whether she was even the best person for the job. I want my money back. In fact, I want double my money back for Witches of Eastwick, which would have sucked with or without her vagina in it.”
Public health advocates, however, were glad that Sarandon sounded the alarm, warning that, in these days of self-appointed Internet healers and vaccine-hysteria-mongering celebrities, there is widespread misunderstanding of vaginal voting. “It is best not to vote your vagina,” the women’s [sic] collective known as Is There a Sex in This Class advised in a press release. “If you really must vote, use only New York City Catskill-sourced water and possibly a single splash of organic lemon. (Just remember Sarandon and the seafood in Atlantic City.) And, at all costs, no cumin in there. It can cause puckering and spasms.”
Men’s penis’s rights groups expressed outrage, saying that Sarandon’s insertion of her “woman-cave” into the political process was exclusionary and hostile to male members of the voting public. Joe Pierce, president of Rock the C***, said, “At first flush, her comments seemed complicit in the conventional discourse binding women candidates in their genitalia and refusing them entry into the wider political arena. But hidden within that apparently unthreatening exterior was a coded taunt to men. Pretending to demean women by maligning her own—quite fetching, might I say?—anatomy, what Sarandon really communicated was this: “I can vote my vagina, but you can’t—because you are a lesser being with a feeble phallus awkwardly hanging where the Pink Palace of Power should be. This covert vaginalism—douchey at best—calls for a firm response from all marginalized penises. In this day and age, can’t we agree to vote an orifice we all share? Our nostrils, maybe, or our glottis?” Pierce has asked lawmakers to consider opening up voting to other orifices, and DiBlasio has agreed to enter into discussions after his inauguration. (Since vaginas have flocked to distance themselves from Quinn, DiBlasio is the presumed winner of the race.)
Indeed, discussion of the proposed bill poked another hole in Sarandon’s rhetoric, one that left her followers at a loss for guidance: her vagina excised, Sarandon did not specify what she planned to put in its place. When she parts those seductively soft velvet curtains and penetrates the inner recess of the voting booth, how, exactly, will she express her support for DiBlasio? Will she vote her clitoris? Her X chromosome? Her other X chromosome? Or is she planning on involving her ACL or plantar fascia instead?
Due to a “jam-packed” schedule, neither Sarandon nor Sarandon’s Vagina could be reached, and her spokesperson refused to comment, saying only, “My lips are sealed.” But insiders placed Sarandon’s Vagina at a nightclub swatting and hammering a shiny brand-new ping-pong ball, ruling the table with her celebrated firm forehand and assured stroke. There was no indication as to whether or not Sarandon’s outer self may have chaperoned her genitalia on this putative outing.
While most of the response to the specter of Sarandon’s Vagina’s vote was markedly critical, some relatively constructive disagreement from unexpected quarters may end up prodding the keeper of Sarandon’s Vagina to reconsider her place in the discussion. A representative for Tim Robbins’s Penis, Sarandon’s Vagina’s former partner, said, “This news brought me to my knees. Although Susan’s Vagina and I have parted, I still believe she has every right to a vote. After all, Susan’s Vagina has made some pretty good choices in the past.” (It is not yet known whether Robbins will vote his penis.)
Citizens who back Sarandon’s refusal to vote vaginally are hard to come by. But there are stirrings of interest in the political community. Former Missouri Representative Tod Akin, a Republican, said that despite Sarandon’s refusal to enter her vagina into the political process, “the female body has ways” of opening things up and taking charge. Former San Diego Mayor said he had seen Sarandon only onscreen, never in person, but he nevertheless expressed remorse for how he had wanted to treat Sarandon’s Vagina in the past. And Rick Perry, Republican Governor of Texas, hearing the news, asked, with characteristic gravitas, “Susan Sarandon’s Vagina? Which one? Left or right?” (To which mayoral candidate Christine Quinn responded, “?”)