College defends its Vagina silence
Published: Thursday, February 27, 2003
Updated: Sunday, January 31, 2010 12:01
The Feb. 6, 2003 issue of The Cowl carried an article indicating that Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues will be produced on the campus of Providence College at an unspecified date in March. According to the article, the college administration's "fear of the word 'vagina' conflicts sharply with today's culture of therapy in which to talk about something is to make it safe an manageable. Naming is power: for these women, the freedom to discuss their bodies equals the freedom to control their own sexuality." The article goes on to note that the Vagina Monologues are not intended "to glorify promiscuity, infidelity, or obscenity," but "to bring the right word back into popular use." In this way, the Monologues will reduce "anxiety over the use of the word vagina."
While the goals of combating violence against women and affirming the therapeutic value of naming are laudable, The Cowl article's perspective on the Monologues is incomplete. The college administration has no fear of the word "vagina" and indeed recognizes that the therapeutic culture of "naming" is older than "today's culture" and broader than patients or victims merely "naming" the source of their anxiety. The therapeutic culture of "naming" is found in the beliefs and practices of both the Old and New Testaments. It includes the ancient Judeo-Christian practice of exorcism in which a rabbi or a priest compels a demon to reveal and name itself by invoking God and the community. Freed from the affliction, the victims are then restored to the community they had been excluded from because of the affliction.
In the current therapeutic process, healing takes place in stages. Naming the affliction and relating the story must be preceded by developing a trusting, healing relationship and followed by restoring the person to the community and eliminating the conditions that caused the suffering. As a Catholic community, Providence College should strive to enhance the dignity of women and to combat violence against them within the context of a trusting and supportive community where all are welcomed and each can flourish, a community united in mind and heart, enlightened Gob's wisdom and assisted by divine grace.
One of the objectives of the College's educational program, explicitly affirmed by faculty in their handbook and reaffirmed in each faculty contract, is "the development of ethics and values informed by the teachings of Catholicism and the Dominican Order." Much of the content and the language of the Vagina Monologues runs counter to this educational objective and to the "intellectual, social, moral and the spiritual values" proclaimed in the Mission Statement and is at odds with the ideals and values embodied in the Catholic tradition.
The Cowl article notes that the Monologues "could only be represented by a faculty department in the name of academic freedom." The College as a whole, as well as individual faculty, has the right, perhaps the obligations, to prohibit the performance of the Vagina Monologues. On this occasion, the Administration neither support the performance of the Monologues not condones any material that sanctions or promotes behavior or lifestyles that are contrary to the Mission Statement of Providence College and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, it should be made clear that college funds may not be used to promote or support the production of the play in any way.