Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Thoughts for Valentine's Day

I'm honestly not sure what to think about The Vagina Monologues, which will be performed on campuses around the nation today. I've never seen nor read it. People's whose opinions I respect have made persuasive arguments to me both for and against it's performance at a Catholic university. Admittedly, I have reacted strongly against the Cardinal Newman Society's use of it as a litmus test for whether or not a university is acceptably Catholic, as if nothing else mattered. Yet, recently Julia (a St. Louis University alum), who has never heard of the Cardinal Newman Society, made some arguments to me that I was more open to listening to. She also referred me to a very thoughtful article, which I'd like to quote here, by a recent graduate of Saint Louis University. The article suggests that the Vagina Monologues undermines its own good intentions:

"Monologues" picks up on two truths in accord with this vision. The first is that female sexuality is beautiful. "I Was There," a monologue that describes new life emerging from a woman's body, illustrates this admirably. The second is that violence, especially sexual violence, against women is reprehensible. "My Angry Vagina," in which a woman who was raped expresses her rage toward her attacker, makes this quite clear.

From these truths, our reasoning should go like this: Female sexuality is beautiful; violence against women is wrong; therefore, we should do away with attitudes that perpetuate such violence. This is what "Monologues" and its advocates purport to do. The intentions are right, but the solutions are counterproductive.

Rather than advocating a loving use of sexuality for a total gift of self to another, "Monologues" implies that women will be free from violence and oppression when we turn in on ourselves, identify ourselves with our vaginas, and pursue sexual pleasure with abandon. Again and again, "Monologues" shows pleasure as an end in itself. It presents any means to achieving pleasure as acceptable, even praiseworthy. After all, they say, pursuit of individual orgasm is an exercise of "freedom."

This sad, enslaved obsession, this reduction of self to sexual parts, is the master plan "Monologues" sets forth for the liberation of women. Yet this plan enshrines the attitudes that prompt abuse of women: pursuit of consequence-free pleasure and failure to see others as real persons but rather as means to an end."

read the whole thing.

There are many ways to interpret a work of art. So, interpretations may vary. But, whether you're for, against, or on the fence, I think this article offers some helpful and well expressed food for thought.

(This is an FYI, rather than fuel for debate, so no comments)

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