posted on: Thursday February 2, 2006
This has been a rough start to the semester for many campus liberals. Rev. Brain J. Shanley O.P.’s sudden prohibition of The Vagina Monologues, coming only three-and-a-half months after his inauguration, has startled them like a 5:00 a.m. fire alarm in the Suites. Accustomed to an administration too intimidated to interfere with the production, they have used protest and Cowl articles to portray the cancellation as a crime against academic freedom and women’s bodies that will destroy the school. The reality, however, is that Providence College is finally getting back in touch with its true self. The way protesters tell it, what has been censored is the campaign to end domestic violence; according to Erin Rice ’06, “the people who will suffer the most as a result of this decision are victims of domestic abuse.” Yet Father Shanley made clear in the letter announcing his decision that the College will continue to sponsor Project S.A.V.E. in its campaign against domestic violence and is even planning to add a fundraising element to compensate for the “more than $1000” that the PC production would annually give to local charities. With these measures, the school certainly does not support rape. But, say protesters, the play itself is a powerful polemical weapon against domestic violence, and its words help prevent further atrocities. Having read The Vagina Monologues, I am quite skeptical of this claim. Monologues that actually have rape or abuse as their subject appear rarely compared with pieces on subjects like what vaginas would say if they could talk-profound explorations of the dignity of woman. More importantly, one would think that a play with such a mission would speak to men at some point, about being protectors rather than violators of women. Yet the play prefers to treat us with contempt; the only men in the play are rapists or insensitive partners. Since there are no healthy heterosexual relationships represented in The Vagina Monologues suggests that the play has a different purpose-to make women’s sexuality independent of men. The play’s author, Eve Ensler, often expresses her resentment of the historical double standard, that men can be “open” about their sexuality and have multiple shack-ups with impunity, while such behavior in women is condemned. Her solution is not to get men to start behaving, but to make women even bigger pigs than men. Hence, most of the monologues revolve around women “taking possession” of their sexuality, whether it is through masturbation, identifying themselves as their vaginas, or lesbian sex. The play does seem to approve occasional flings with men to get a girl’s rocks off, but not for too long a period-you know how clingy men get. For Ensler, sexuality is no longer a life-creating miracle that brings a man and a woman together in selfless love; instead, it is a selfish hunger that isolates one from the other. As men have sometimes done, she ignores the fact that the sexes need each other for society. Worst of all, Ensler has declared war on one of woman’s greatest qualities-her innate understanding that her body is sacred and must be treated with reverence. Such views have no place at a school whose motto is Veritas. I do agree with Father Shanley that students should study the play; if it is true that we learn from other people’s mistakes, then the Monologues are a treasure trove of information. However, it is ridiculous to say that the College must give equal footing to all possible view-points on fundamental issues-like sexuality-equal footing on its own. This would be appropriate for a secular school, which by nature has no foundational beliefs on morality. But this school is founded on Christ’s Truth, and guided by the light of faith. For us to act like a secular school would be to deny Christ His place on our campus. Orthodox Catholic students have known this and have been waiting for the prohibition of the play for years. A few, such as Kristen Lopez ’05 and Terrence Sweeney ’06, wrote in The Cowl last year against the administration’s paradoxical position of allowing Women Will to put on the play but not to advertise it. Unfortunately, until this year we were unable to organize ourselves and express our frustration with the school as a group. Father Shanley has changed all that. His bold cancellation of the play has inspired orthodox Catholic students, and rallied them to his side. When the play’s supporters-aided and supplied by the national V-day organization-staged a protest for the media at Harkins Gate whose participants included people from other schools, some PC students fought back. Sweeney and Kyle Drennen ’07, with only one days notice, gathered a group of about 30 PC students to counter-protest, making sure that both sides were represented in the local news coverage. Moreover, Father Shanley’s eloquent explanation of his decision is even changing minds; I know of several students who have said that Shanley’s choice, and the reasoning behind it has swayed them. Far from hurting PC, Father Shanley is uniting students, faculty, and administrators under the banner of Truth, and leading the way to a Catholic Renaissance on campus. On behalf of those following cheerfully in his ranks, I say, thank you, Father Shanley, and lead on.