Back in February, I received a personal invitation to view the rehearsal of a controversial event. No, I don’t mean the 2008 KYMAA math festival. I mean an event on Bellarmine’s campus that was held around 14 February. The stated purpose of the event is to raise funds and interest to fight violence against women, as stated on the web site. That particular link has no potentially offensive or vulgar terms, but other pages on that site do. I’m talking about something called V-Day, with V not for Violence or Valentine. Know what? I’d like to use actual terms, which are considered impolite, so I’ll send this beyond the more link. Click away if you wish.
Yes, these are the Vagina Monologues. It’s a technical term, but it’s considered impolite. I’m not quite sure why; I mean, don’t body parts have names? Making up silly nicknames like hoohaa doesn’t change the biology. Sometimes those words are necessary. If we are really speaking about violence against women, and truly working to end these problems, we might need to describe them graphically. Take, for instance, the Wikipedia description of female genital cutting, which even has a picture. If we want to evaluate the problem, we as adults should understand what gets removed, often quite a lot.
A lot of people, particularly conservative Catholics, oppose the monologues. It has become a major emphasis of certain groups to remove these productions from Catholic campuses. You can find these groups easily, if you must. Overall, I agree with them. First, the productions are lewd, with frequent profanity. Furthermore, a lot of the words are pointless. Serious and vulgar words are fine, if they serve serious purposes. Screaming vulgarities do not. Random crudeness does not belong at any university, Catholic or otherwise; college goals are intelligence and improvement.
The more serious problem is that the stories have a violent focus and anti-male bias. I would agree with this statement. There are more details here, but let me summarize. A majority of the male-female sexual relationships are depicted as negative and destructive to women, except for one where a man focuses on the beauty of all of the female body. On the other hand, female-female sexual relationships are generally depicted as positive and nurturing. This includes some brutal examples, including a dominatrix. The most extreme example, worthy of further illumination, is “The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could”. The original version was a story of how a 24-year-old woman invites a 13-year-old woman to her house for an overnight stay, gives her vodka and orange juice, and proceeds to molest her. The version presented until about 1999 finished with a line from the younger female, “Well, I say if it was rape, it was a good rape then, a rape that turned my sorry-ass coochie snorcher into a kind of heaven.” I should note that in the 2008 version, the 13-year-old has become 16, and the line about good rape has been eliminated. Under Kentucky law, the original version is statutory rape in the second degree. The current version is no longer a felony, but serving alcohol to a minor is illegal and makes the act sexual misconduct. I’m confused. Why should I think positively about a portrayal that takes advantage of a teenager? How does this promote women?
If this is the best option to promote females, and oppose violence against women, then society has failed. There need to be better options. Women deserve better.
It’s worth a moment to think about why college age females support these productions. Some people want to be naughty, which I can’t stop. That’s not all of them, I bet. This article on Busted Halo has an interesting take. The question: “Could The Vagina Monologues be a way in which victims of sexual assault find empowerment, a voice, a forum in which their cry is heard in a society that isn’t comfortable hearing their experience and how it has affected them?” I suspect it’s true. Most schools and communities, including Bellarmine as far as I know, don’t provide those outlets. Catholic leaders and writings place a huge emphasis on purity, idealizing virginity among women. It’s “Virgin Mary” over “Mary” again and again. Yes, Mary’s accession to God working through her is a big deal; I’m not trying to downplay that. Her choice was vital. What I am questioning is the repetition of “Virgin” over “Mary, mother of god.” Why do we emphasize the aspect of her? If true until the end of her earthly life, she and Joseph didn’t even have a good marriage, because sexuality is part of a valid coupling. Why do we support and romanticize and idealize that pairing? That doesn’t help. Also, and this should become part of a much longer thought, what passes by most people for valid complete theology of the body fails to think about these cases.
I know people generally don’t like to think about truly painful situations. Slightly bad situations we can do, and Americans revel in those; take, for instance, the Miley Cyrus picture stories. That might be interesting. On the other hand, I received the 2007 report of the Center for Women and Families (in response to the presenter’s request, I contributed privately) which notes that their hospital advocates met with 258 victims of sexual assault. Just in the Louisville area, that number is. How many of the outraged posters about Hannah Montana worried about ANY of those?
But there aren’t enough of us. So, women turn to brutal, unloving portrayals like the monologues. They think that acting crudely and obscenely means power, because that’s what the males with power do. Take, for instance, Justice Clarence Thomas and porn or Bill O’Reilly and Caribbean vacations or prostitute frequenters Rep. David Vitter and Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Too many, far too many. There has to be another way. Taking the structure of the dominant dirty male, becoming a violent “vagina warrior”, cannot be the best possible outcome. I believe that a world without these often-fictional plays would be better. Alternatives need to be available, but in this aspect, the church, the community, and the state, all have failed. Women deserve better.