posted on: Thursday February 18, 2010
Mark Scirocco ’10 / Commentary Staff
In the hopes of putting The Vagina Monologues debate to rest, I’d like to dispense with certain myths circulating around Eve Ensler’s timeless work. As the students who voiced their support for The Vagina Monologues in last week’s issue of The Cowl make clear, there are several misconceptions regarding the play which prevent the students of Providence College from appreciating a book that should be on the bedside table of every man, woman, and child.
Myth #1: The Vagina Monologues
Myth #2: The Vagina Monologues
Myth #3: The Vagina Monologues
Myth #4: The Vagina MonologuesThere are other myths in need of being dispensed with, including, “Ensler’s play is concerned only with the advancement of a feminist agenda,” and “Ensler’s play offers us nothing regarding sexual assault that could not be learned from the tenants of Christianity.” The sooner we dispense with these and other myths surrounding The Vagina Monologues and convince Fr. Shanley to give this masterpiece a place on campus the better off our college community will be.does nothing to stop sexual violence. “I say ‘vagina,'” writes Ensler, “because I have read the statistics, and bad things are happening to women’s vaginas everywhere: 500,000 women are raped every year in the United States; 100 million women have been genitally mutilated worldwide…I say ‘vagina’ because I want these bad things to stop. I know they will not stop until we acknowledge that they’re going on, and the only way to make that possible is to enable women to talk without fear of punishment or retribution.” Far from holding that crimes of sexual violence will only be effectively stopped by the proper use of force, Ensler wants to curb assault by bringing discussion about vaginas into the open. If only the Muslim women raped in Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers or those in the dark alleys of our nation’s most dangerous cities knew that all they had to do was whisper “vagina” to their attackers. leads women to treat their bodies as mere playthings. This myth happens to be my favorite because of its truth. Different from the worldview expressed by the Christian tradition, Ensler and her ilk hold that our bodies are playthings. Christianity contends that, far from seeking the mere satisfaction of desire, individuals ought to conform themselves to the truth of God, who, as our Creator, has jurisdiction over our actions. The Vagina Monologues frees us from such silly notions. Ensler explains: “It’s scary saying the word. ‘Vagina.’ At first it feels like you’re crashing through an invisible wall…Then…it occurs to you that it’s your word, your body, your most essential place. You suddenly realize that all the shame and embarrassment you’ve previously felt saying the word has been a form of silencing your desire, eroding your ambition.” Shame is nothing more than a childish emotion to be removed by any decent sexual education. Only when we rid ourselves of shame are we free to treat our bodies with the disrespect that they deserve. Besides, when has the Church’s guidance helped anyone, anyway? reduces the dignity of women to a sexual organ. Ensler writes, “I say ‘vagina’ because when I started saying it I discovered how fragmented I was, how disconnected my body was from my mind. My vagina was something over there, away in the distance. I rarely lived inside it, or even visited. I was busy working, writing…I did not see my vagina as my primary resource, a place of sustenance, humor, and creativity…I had essentially lived most of my life without my motor, my center, my second heart.” As we see, the Monologues are about a woman’s need to rediscover vaginas as the primary resource of sustenance and life. Again, Ensler writes, “Then you begin to say the word more and more. You say it with a kind of passion, a kind of urgency…So you say it everywhere you can, bring it up in every conversation.” The play is concerned with making the vagina the center of woman’s existence in action and word, not about reducing them to a single body part. What are Ensler’s critics missing? is not intellectually stimulating. Listen to Ensler explain her motivation for mainstreaming the word “vagina”: “I say it [vagina] because we haven’t come up with a word that’s more inclusive, that really describes the entire area and all its parts. ‘Pussy’ is probably a better word, but it has so much baggage connected with it. And besides, I don’t think most of us have a clear idea of what we’re talking about when we say ‘pussy.'” Anyone doubting Ensler on this point need only watch an episode of MTV’s The Jersey Shore, whose cast members tried to come up with a definition for the word “pussy” but, sadly, failed.