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A not very funny valentine
By Wendy McElroy
"The Vagina Monologues" are coming to a theater near you … again. Eve Ensler's politically correct-feminist play is being dusted off on campuses and in communities around North America for production, often at taxpayer expense.
Since 1998, the play has been part of a drive to convert Feb. 14 from chocolates and Valentines to Vaginas and Violence -- that is, to turn Valentine's Day into "V-Day," a day of spotlighting male violence against women. But the backlash may surprise this year's promoters. The hostile reception provides another indication that society is no longer willing to tolerate political correctness.
What is V-Day? It is self-described by organizers -- a coalition of feminist organizations -- as a global event to combat violence against women, which occurs in the weeks surrounding Valentine's Day. This year, 2004, is touted as a celebration of "Vagina Warriors," with reportedly "over 2000 community-based V-Day benefit events" scheduled -- 900 in the U.S. V-Day's centerpiece is the performance of the "Vagina Monologues."
The play consists of 15 vignettes in which women speak out as vaginas -- about their experiences, including rape, lesbianism, and genital mutilation. (Puzzling, I know, to those who thought feminists objected to women being viewed as body parts.)
The original play included a scene entitled "The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could" -- a reference to the nickname of a 13-year-old vagina. A 24-year-old woman plied the child-vagina with alcohol, and then they had sex. Both by statute and feminist definition, this is rape. Nevertheless, the Coochi Snorcher declared, "... if it was rape, it was a good rape." In the wake of outraged protest, the reference to "good rape" was prudently deleted from 2002 performances and the girl became 16.
But the sex scene stayed and the surrounding language still makes clear the "goodness" of the lesbian statutory rape. The girl-vagina concludes that now she will "never need to rely on a man."
"The Vagina Monologues" promotes lesbianism, pedophilia, and the view that men are violent -- women are victims. If the play did so honestly and at its own expense, then the worst that could be said is "boycott the trash."
But shouting "vagina" -- the word occurs more than 100 times -- is hyped as true liberation and a way to end violence against women. Thus, those who criticize the play are anti-liberation and for violence. Moreover, the play is widely sponsored or hosted by university campuses that use tax and tuition dollars. Many of these same campuses have suppressed conservative views.
In past years, there have been isolated protests from male and conservative students, who were largely ignored or punished. For example, Robert Swope wrote a piece protesting the use of tuition dollars to finance a production at Georgetown; immediately afterward, Swope was fired from the student newspaper.
This year, however, the protests are widespread. They push well beyond complaining about the tax dollars or tuition money spent to promote a politics and morality that many taxpayers find revolting. The objections include:
The vicious anti-male bias of "The Vagina Monologues." One vagina offers the depiction of a young boy: "Edgar Montane, who is 10, gets angry at me and punches me with all his might between my legs. It feels like he breaks my entire self. I limp home. I can't pee."
The play unremittingly portrays men as rapists, predators, and aggressors. In between, skewed feminist statistics are offered to support this anti-male worldview.
The inappropriateness of some of the venues. The play will be performed at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School in Massachusetts. On his Jan. 14 show, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly discussed the impropriety of using tax money to feed graphic and ideological sex to children.
The double standard by which administrations support the clearly ideological and, yet, routinely suppress other viewpoints. O'Reilly also pointed out, "The same school district [Amherst] rejected a production of West Side Story [in 1999] because it allegedly promoted racial stereotypes."
Speech codes are rampant on college campuses. And, since "women" are a group protected against "offense," the codes tend to restrict the speech of men, especially conservatives.
The activities funded by profits from the play. Eve Ensler waives profits from Valentine's Day performances if the proceeds go agencies that aid women. Thus, a small New Hampshire theater is now in the midst of an abortion debate because its proceeds are earmarked for the Portsmouth Feminist Health Center, which offers first-trimester abortions.
The foregoing conflicts are reason for optimism. In the ‘90s, Ensler's original play complete with the "good rape" had the world applauding. It won the prestigious Obie award. Famous actresses clamored to be included in the cast. The New York Times called Ensler "the Messiah heralding the second wave of feminism."
The current backlash is part of a "tipping point" in our culture. The tipping point is similar to the super-saturation of a liquid, to the high school science experiment in which sugar is added bit-by-bit to warmed water until, suddenly, the water hits its saturation point and the sugar precipitates, like snow, to the bottom.
Our culture has been saturated by political correctness. Indeed, some universities, like Loyola, are refusing to sponsor the "The Vagina Monologues" this year. We are ready for political correctness to fall out of the social equation. It is time to tip from "correctness" of expression to freedom of speech, which everyone exercises at his or her own expense.
Wendy McElroy is the editor of ifeminists.com and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, "Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century" (Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002). She lives with her husband in Canada.
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