Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Observer Viewpoint: Monologues Demean Women

For those who missed it (such as myself), the following is a letter to the editor that was printed in Monday's Observer:
As the Irish Rover pointed out on Feb. 7, the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine has moved its meeting from Notre Dame in response to the showing of the Monologues on campus. Every year we discuss the meaning of "academic freedom" and the extent to which the university should promote student expression, but I believe this woefully misses the mark.

The Vagina Monologues' performances are tied to V-Day, which defines itself as "a global movement to stop violence against women and girls." (www.vday.org) If this were the extent of the movement, I would wholeheartedly support the effort, but am saddened that the Monologues are seen as the way to make this happen. It seems fairly obvious that if one desires to end violence against women, we must attack the mentality which sees women as sex objects. Unfortunately, the Monologues mostly depict women who have simply found ways to treat themselves as sex objects without the help of men. I was appalled to see the rape of a young girl by an older woman celebrated and masturbation blatantly encouraged.

As a woman who has been a victim of sexual violence and talked to dozens of others in situations much more tragic than her own, I believe it is our duty to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else. This cannot be done if we are taught to view ourselves as playthings and we cannot be successful unless we recognize the dignity of the human body. In permitting the Monologues, we are promoting a different kind of violence toward women: One that tells us it's okay to see ourselves as nothing more than walking vaginas, yet demonizes men for doing the same.

I ask Dean Roche, Father Jenkins and all those whose decisions affect this play's production not only to uphold the Catholic character of our university, but to trust in it. We must not allow empty promises to lure us away from the witness of the saints, the Church, Notre Dame and the love of God. We cannot focus on the fight to end violence if our attention is distracted by "academic debates" and theatre which belittles the dignity of womanhood. I speak for myself and many others when I say there is no debate: Violence against women should be stopped, especially when we inflict it on ourselves.

Christina Holmstrom
Farley Hall
Feb. 10


K. Donahue said...

Although I agree wholeheartedly with Christina that the V-monologues contribute to the very cause they claim to fight, here at ND they are specifically not associated with "V-day." As Father Jenkins mandated, they are not allowed to be performed in order to raise money. As also noted by the chair of the sociology department, here at ND the plays will specifically not be performed on V-day in order to dimish association to that national event.

Darragh said...

Yes, but as Dan pointed out in an earlier post about the "Sex Workers Art Show" at Duke, placing things within an "academic context" allows for the creation of a double standard, and even seems to encourage it.

We are becoming more like our aspirational peers in every other way - must we become hypocrites like them too?