Monologue about those ‘Monologues’

mono Kavita Kumar of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about a Catholic college’s decision to not stage a production of “The Vagina Monologues” on campus. Her story claimed that officials at St. Louis University canceled the controversial play for various reasons:

Campus administrators refused to sponsor the play last year, after several years of sponsorship, because they said that doing the same play year after year is redundant and didn’t add much new.

SLU leaders said their decision was not censorship, but students suspect that is just what it is.

Conservative watchdog groups and others have protested at SLU and other Catholic campuses where the “Monologues” is performed because they say the play, with its frank discussion of female sexuality and homosexuality, is inappropriate.

Kumar’s explanation cannot be dismissed out of hand. Why campus administrators pulled the plug is almost unknowable.

But let’s call a spade a spade. Kumar’s story is biased. The play’s opponents come across as censorious and closed-minded. Now maybe they are, but Kumar provided no evidence for this implication.

“Conservative watchdog groups and others” have said, repeatedly, that they object to the play not for its frankness but rather its morality. For example, the president of Providence College criticized a scene in the play in which a teenage woman is raped or forcibly seduced by an older woman. Kumar should have noted this objection.

In addition, critics have objected to description of the play as a “new bible” for women. As you might imagine, traditional Catholics take issue with any sort of new bible, not just this one.

Perhaps Kumar wrote the story under tight deadline pressure. But it’s too bad that she adopted a superficial understanding of the dispute between Catholic colleges and the play. There is a real story about how traditional Catholics and the play’s secular writers view female sexuality. But getting it requires a reporter to engage in a colloquy not a monologue.

Print Friendly

  • Julia

    For any of you who are not aware of the big deal that is made of “V Day” and the “Vagina Monologues” on college campuses.

    http://v10.vday.org/

    If this link doesn’t work, goggle “V Day”.

  • Dave

    Maybe it’s just because I’m new here, but I don’t see how this story, with its admitted flaws, fits this blog.

    I don’t agree that the reporter portrays “Catholic watchdog groups and others” as closed-minded. They are censorious; they want to stop presentation of a play that they are not required to attend, which fits the term.

    The story indeed omits a description of the differences between the views on sexuality between the authors of “The Vagina Monologues” and any other viewpooint in our society, not just religious viewpoints. That’s not a snub of religion. And an exposition of those differences could extend the story to the size of a master’s thesis; I would point to the realities of journalism as a reason for the omission.

  • Dave

    Oops, one addendum. Portraying those who protest the play for its discussion of female sexuality and homosexuality as being “inappropriate” doesn’t specify whether they object to the play’s frankness or morality. One can fault the writer for not being specific in this regard, but not for choosing one characterization over the other.

  • Ken

    This play is a political statement which no Catholic entity should be promoting. After annual productions ad nauseum, we aren’t dealing with artistic freedom, but a sophmoric tweaking of the big bad Catholic Church.

    And, if my information is correct, that “teenaged woman” is 14 years old. Transpose that to males and make the liberated lesbian a Catholic priest and then twitter on about the glories of artistic freedom.

  • http://ontheotherfoot.blogspot.com Joel

    And, if my information is correct, that “teenaged woman” is 14 years old.

    That’s something I think Kumar’s editor should address. Under what circumstances is a female under legal age called a “woman?” A “teenage woman” would have to be 18 or 19; otherwise, she’s a “girl.”

    Thus saith the AP Stylebook: Girl: Applicable until her 18th birthday. Otherwise use woman.

    Does that rule change when it involves sex?

  • Peggy

    If they had not wanted a hit piece on the closed-mindedness of the Church and conservatives, they would have had Tim Townsend write the story.

  • Stephen A.

    Dave writes:

    I don’t agree that the reporter portrays “Catholic watchdog groups and others” as closed-minded. They are censorious; they want to stop presentation of a play that they are not required to attend, which fits the term.

    I guess he missed this part of the story (quoted plainly in the blog post above):

    Campus administrators refused to sponsor the play last year, after several years of sponsorship, because they said that doing the same play year after year is redundant and didn’t add much new.

    This CATHOLIC University (yes, this is a religious issue, in the sense that it’s run as a Catholic school) allowed it to be performed “year after year.” Darned censors!

    Frankly, I doubt a community theater would performed the same play over and over again year after year. How boring! That goes for any play: Macbeth, Our Town, etc.

    But we have to make the mean old adults the bad guys here, and it helps that they’re religionists:

    SLU leaders said their decision was not censorship, but students suspect that is just what it is.

    Again, the “it’s not faaaiir” argument. Teens and 20-somethings are famously, naively taken in by this dishwater-thin argument, as are many liberal adults, whose mission here is obviously to indoctrinate young girls into thinking promiscuously about sex.

    The reporter was clearly trying to gin up a controversy by taking the position, as the students did, that this was “censorship,” despite the fact that the play was allowed to go on unmolested (pun intended) for several years, an inconvenient fact that makes the entire censorship argument foolish.

    Oh, and I’m sure you’ve all heard that Jane Fonda, talking about the Monologues (and featured prominently in that link Julia left) dropped the “C-Word” (nasty synonym for Vagina) on the Today show Wed. morning. Nice. Jane is so “hip” at 70, isn’t she? That’s why she did it, of course.

    And here we thought she had converted to Christianity.

    Reporting request: Someone update us on her conversion and ask her what it means to be coarsening the culture as a ‘Christian.’

  • Dave

    In reply to the response of Steven A:

    I didn’t miss the part of the blog you cited; I simply didn’t concern myself with it. I was addressing groups outside of the administration that oppose the play.

    Frankly, I doubt a community theater would performed the same play over and over again year after year. How boring! That goes for any play: Macbeth, Our Town, etc.

    A campus theater differs from a community theater because many more persons are added to the potential audience every year, and there is an almost complete turnover in audience every four years.

    It’s also my understanding that “The Vagina Monologues” does not have a permanent script but evolves from performance to performance.

  • Dave

    Another addendum: I mistyped “Catholic” for “conservative” in describing the watchdog groups. My bad; that was a blunder worth criticizing.

  • Chip

    But let’s call a spade a spade. Kumar’s story is biased. The play’s opponents come across as censorious and closed-minded.

    So by writing that the opponents of the play believe it is “inappropriate,” Kumar is displaying bias? (That’s the only part of the article where Kumar mentions critics of the play) Aren’t Mark and several other commenters here arguing that the play is inappropriate? Why is one a case of bias and not the other?
    And Stephen A’s contention that Kumar is trying to “gin up controversy by taking the position…that this was ‘censorship,’” is just plain unsupported by anything he wrote or anything in the article. Kumar not only gives the school the last word (the spokesman suggests the student hold the play off-campus within walking distance) but also devotes many more inches to presenting the school’s point of view than she does to the students.

    I think there are some basic problems with the article because it is not clear about the facts. The article suggests that there was student performance of “The Vagina Monologues” off-campus this year, and a second group of students who tried to get administration approval of the other play, “”A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer.” The other basic failing of the article was to not mention why universities across the country perform these two plays in particular this time of year. As Julia mentioned, it is a part of V-Day which is to draw attention to the campaign to end violence against women.

    Anyway, the main point of the article was that SLU administration did not give approval to either play, and how the students responded. The author included a paraphrase and a direct quote from the administration giving their stated reasons for their decision. If the administration did not publicize their reasoning in any more detail than that, then what was Kumar suppose to do? Speculate that perhaps the administration agreed with other critics without really knowing if that was true?

    Mark’s complaint seems to me to be that Kumar did not write a different kind of article than she did. He writes:

    There is a real story about how traditional Catholics and the play’s secular writers view female sexuality.

    which is true, but would be a different story than reporting on the series of event at SLU. On a side note, the story which Mark links to in that sentence at lifesite.net is an very shallow one which does not really educate the audience about how Catholics or the play views female sexuality. There is nothing in it to present the play’s point of view or to present the point of view of the Catholic school that have decided to allow the play to be performed. If you are concerned about bias in articles, look no further than the lifesite.net article.

  • http://www.reenchantment.net another Ken

    When events like this — on practically every subject — make the news, the background story is usually scantily filled in. The background story here is worthwhile because it is a story of Catholic Bishops asserting their authority over schools and colleges in this country that have lost in some degree what the Church calls “Catholic Identity.”

    This story not told — that I was aware of because I follow these things — is the turmoil that festers between Catholics who see education as a “search for truth illuminated by faith,” and academics who populate universities of all stripes and in the case of some religious schools see a “living” U.S. Constitution and a “living” Bible and presentations like the play in question as no big deal. They are similar in this way to the academics that give a pass to UCIrvine in California to have pornography actors speak to a undergrad Sociology class lead by a grad student.

    The Bishop of St. Louis asserted a directive and reasonable claim to what a Catholic Education should be as noted in a Pope JPII encyclical “Centesimus Annus” which you can read in full at http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0214/_INDEX.HTM.

    The story is that some bishops in the U.S. are taking their job seriously. That is a really important event and will hearten alumni everywhere.

  • corita

    Oh how sick to death I am of the word, “inappropriate.” Talk about a modern word with alost no real denotative meaning that carries larded on connotation wherever it is flung. Like in this brief story.

    To answer Dave’s question, above, about how this story fits into GR, I would say that I have NEVER read a msm story that accurately describes theological objections to the play.

    One major objection is that the play’s focus on reclaiming anatomy to empower women does, in fact, do the opposite:
    By focusing on the vagina it runs into the problem of defining women by their sexual parts… which I believe is one problem that Ensler and her fans/participants would like to fight against.

    The play has a materialist component which reduces human beings to experiences (sexual and otherwise) that deal with a few parts. While Catholic theology teaches that human beings are primarily eternal beings living in a body, and modern (JPII esp.) theology sees the body as a particular aspect of identity that expresses, but not defines, the True person, the Vagina Monologues has a tendency to encourage definition, and reduction, of the self to physicality, including focus on parts.

    It attempts, as monologue art does, to move from specific details of life to a grander statement of meaning. But it doesn’t grow from the particular to the abstract very well. It is bogged down in the narrative details…. which are primarily body parts with people as auxiliary manipulators of such.

    This is a theological problem for Catholics.

    It’s hard to convey all that with the word “inappropriate,” isn’t it?

  • corita

    Addendum:
    That first line is supposed to say, “Talk about a modern word with ALMOST no real…..”

  • Dave

    Oh how sick to death I am of the word, “inappropriate.” Talk about a modern word with al[m]ost no real denotative meaning that carries larded on connotation wherever it is flung. Like in this brief story.

    I would like to come to the defense of “inappropriate.” I could imagine a non-theological, indeed arguably non-moral, objection to “The Vagina Monologues” playing on a campus, from a healthy-sex-education point of view, in that the first-ever exposure of the youngest audience members to some of the themes as presented would be less than optimal.

    Please note that I am not mounting such an objection. I have constructed it to show that it is possible, it is at least internally cogent, and that this dreary word fits it accurately.

  • Pingback: Tomorrow Is V. Day « In Other Words


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X