V Is for violating modesty and dignity

On Feb. 14, women on campuses around the country will be celebrating “V-Day.” To the uninitiated, this might sound like an abbreviation for Valentine’s Day. But to “vagina warriors” at more than 1,000 universities in the United States, it stands for “Victory, Valentine and Vagina.”

UNCA is one of 19 universities in the state, including Western Carolina and Appalachian State, that are hosting feminist playwright Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues or other V-Day-related events on or around Valentine’s Day.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of V-Day. To observe the occasion, students are performing either the original monologues or a new collection edited by Ensler, titled A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls. At some North Carolina schools, students are showing the documentary Until the Violence Stops, which gives an overview of the V-Day movement.

Unfortunately, V-Day’s outrageous tactics make a mockery of the serious issues facing women around the world. Armed with the knowledge that “sex sells,” V-Day raises money—but not respect—for women’s issues.

High jinks aside, V-Day’s mission is laudable. Violence against women does occur, even in the United States. Rape, incest, battery, genital mutilation and sexual slavery are all serious issues. Ending violence against women is a worthy goal.

But instead of action, the V-Day campaign is about awareness. This would not be bad if the activities were designed to educate audiences about serious threats to safety. But V-Day and The Vagina Monologues are more a glorification of female sexuality and a rejection of traditional values than either useful information or action. In fact, their most visible aim seems to be promoting alternative lifestyles and promiscuity.

Consider The Vagina Monologues, V-Day’s signature event. This is not about combating violence; in fact, it’s exactly what the title implies: women waxing philosophical about their private parts before a paying audience. Random House, the play’s publisher, describes it as a compendium of women’s stories of “intimacy, vulnerability and sexual self-discovery.” It features women—representing vaginas—who speak out from the stage about their experiences and preferences. The stories explore sexual fantasies, fears and experimentation. Of all the sexual encounters described in Ensler’s book and on the stage, only two involve intimacy with men. One grateful actress concludes, “I’ll never need to rely on a man.”

But instead of embracing the play as “emancipating,” feminists should be horrified over this sexual objectification of women. The play strips away any modesty, mystery, or dignity from sexual acts, just as it severs the connection between emotional and physical love. The Vagina Monologues represents sexual objectification—of women, by women.

Feminist student groups and women’s centers, and even health centers, are sponsoring the event at universities across the state. And in most cases, the common thread among the sponsors is commitment to a feminist agenda.

Those truly interested in ending violence against women have other, more serious options. Since 2004, Amnesty International has sponsored a Stop Violence Against Women campaign whose efforts help victims of domestic violence in 16 countries across the globe. The National Organization for Women sponsors annual “Take Back the Night” marches in cities and towns nationwide. NOW advocates for new state laws—outlawing stalking, making it easier to get restraining orders, and providing funding for hot lines and shelters. These groups and others devoted to women’s issues focus on the problem of violence against women and on tangible solutions.

In contrast, V-Day’s treatment of women as sexual objects undermines anything its fund raising might accomplish. V-Day alienates and ridicules where it should inform.

[Jenna Ashley Robinson is campus outreach coordinator for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, based in Raleigh.]

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34 thoughts on “V Is for violating modesty and dignity

  1. nam veteran

    OMG, LOL, what is this country coming to? Someone is so radicalized a feminist that they think valentine’s day is a bad thing? HUH? Jenna Robinson only diminishes her feminist cause without this kind of extremeness.

    I for one will be looking with even more of a smiling, flirting, face tomorrow as I tell sexy women “Happy Valentine’s Day”. Viva la difference. The existence of pretty, sexy women is proof God loves us (move over beer!)

  2. TokyoTaos

    Nam Vet – did you actually even read the commentary. V-Day is not Valentines Day. Read it again. Don’t jump to assumptions. At least know what you’re talking about before you comment.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with Ms Robinson.
    She makes very valid points. In this area alone we have a high rate of domestic violence. Then we have global violence against females. Do we really need potty mouth, bathroom humor to combat the atrocities committed against females of all ages? V-day degrades females and does nothing to help shelter a woman and her children from an abusive male, or does nothing to stop genital mutilation or the sex slave trade.

    All in all it’s silly women doing a silly something to bring attention to the fact that they are potty mouthed, sexual deginerates and can make lots of money at it but little else.

  4. popsicle

    oh, come on. yes, proper southern baptist women are often terrified of the word vagina. quaint, old- fashioned, and pathetic. embracing healthy expressions of sexuality and speaking out against sexual violence go pretty well together.

    i’m the one in the “vagina is for lovers” tee shirt.

  5. TokyoTaos

    The Vigina Monologues is about the sometimes celebratory, sometimes painful, sometimes funny – but always, always honest – relationship that women have with their own bodies, specifically their own vaginas and sexuality. It is a play of monologues that came out of real-life interviews that the playright Eve Ensler had with some 200 living, breathing women. The fact that Jenna Robinson believes the play violates modesty and dignity says more about her than the play itself. I have seen many productions of the play and talked to countless women who have found it both empowering and healing. I love the pay. It makes me laugh. It makes me cry. It makes me feel connected with other women because I can so relate with their experiences and feelings. And most of all it brings to light this strange, dysfunctional, sad, funny and ever healing journey we are on with our own bodies because of the crazy culture we live in. The truth can never be demeaning – it can only help set us free.

    I believe that V-day and the Vagina monologues has done more than any other organization, event or movement that I know of to highlight violence against women here and around the world. In it’s 10 years of existence it has raised over $50 million for local anti-violence groups with events taking place in over 120 countries. In 2007, more than 3000 V-Day events took place in the U.S. and around the world. It must have something going for it for so many women to have embraced it with such enthusiasm

    For anyone who doesn’t know about the organization I suggest visiting http://www.vday.org. I also suggest seeing or reading the play The Vagina Monologues. You can make up your own mind.

  6. For all the clap trap… I don’t see anyone helping these women; the true victims. I’ve seen the Vagina Monologues and if you like trash and degrading a woman’s sexuality, you will LOVE it!

    However if you truly want to make a difference donate LOCALLY!!!!…your time, energy and your money to Help Mate! a Battered Women’s Shelter
    http://www.helpmateonline.org/

    Here is a list of items they need:
    Ongoing Client and Shelter Needs:

    Gift Cards for Clients (to Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Ingles, etc.)
    Non-perishable Food Items
    Children’s Dishware (sippy-cups, plates, spoons, etc.)
    New Women’s Slip-On Shoes of All Sizes (Crocs, flipflops, etc.)
    New Women’s Sweatpants/Sweatshirts (Sizes 6-3x)
    Lawn Mower
    Alarm Clocks
    Combination Locks
    Brooms and Mops
    Garbage Bags
    Laundry Detergent
    Tin Foil
    Q-tips
    Dishwasher Detergent
    Toilet Paper / Paper Towels / Tissues
    Sponges
    Cleaning Supplies
    New Women’s Underwear (all sizes)
    emergency assistance for heating and other home bills
    school supplies
    calendars, date/appointment books

    or to:

    Our Voice-Rape Crisis Center
    http://www.ourvoicenc.org/Dif.htm

  7. TokyoTaos

    I don’t know about this year but all the proceeds from both the UNCA and Warren Wilson College’s production of The Vagina Monologues last year went to support both Our Voice and Helpmate – and I would bet that the proceeds from all of the productions in the Asheville area over the last 10 years also went to Helpmate and/or other similar local organizations. This play truly does make a difference locally, Ms. Nesbitt. It’s also inspired a lot of women to get more involved, yes, locally. The proceeds from almost all if not all the productions of the play worldwide go to help women in the local community in which is is staged. Real help going to real women.

  8. TokyoTaos

    One last note: Both Ms. Robinson and Ms. Nesbitt seem to believe that V-Day isn’t about action or really helping women. Go to http://v10.vday.org/ten-years-vday and see for yourself all the many, many ways that V-Day has helped real women over the last year.

    ‘Nuff said.

  9. bluejfk

    I am all about ending violence against women.

    Having been raped by a guy when I was 12 years old I think I have some legitamacy on this issue even though I am a guy.

    However, I find nothing wrong in women wanting to be a sexaul object. In-fact if I stopped treating my Cuban wife as a sexual object she would carve my eyes out.

    The point is that there is little or no evidence that there is a corrrelation that women being treated as sexual objects leads to violence. It is light stating wearing and armani suit with a Rolex Watch is to blame for NYC subway muggings.

    The problem, in my opinion, is that this all begins at the home where young males are either forced to be sexaully repressed by an uber conservative christain doctine and/or they live in a home where the women in the house are not respected, and/or they learn to be violent against women by their male role models at home and/or they live in a loveless home full of anger and hate and/or they are simply a few french fries away froma a happy meal, if you know what I mean.

    My wifes previous marriage ended when her husband sent her to the ER by beating the crap out of her. Her ex husband was emotionally wacked out. He also simply grew up with two parents who did not create a loving home.

    I can’t wait for the future where in 20-30 years white sexually repressed women will be in the minority so we don’t have to hear their BS.

    Lastly.

    I madly love my wife.
    I respect her for her incredible beauty that packages a wonderful intellect, passion and soul.
    I lust after her body, her curves, her Cuban/Chinese Mulatta butty.
    I love it when she looks at me with that crazed look as if she is going to devour me and I giver her that look right back.
    I love it when she gives me a face numbing kiss in Ingles in- front of uber repressed christian women and lebians.
    She is my owner and master in all things as I am her owner and master in all things as it should be!!

    I sincerely hope that world finds what my wife and I have found in each other. Most of the problems of the world would go way except the rapidly rising global population. Becuase of our love and open passion, my daughter loves me more than her bio-dad and our boys love her more than their bio-mom.

    On Valentines day we should all try to get over whatever holds back our passions for life, love and each other. Anytime we repress those things it eventaully leads to violence. Violence against women, men and a 12 year old boy.

    Regards,

    Joseph deDora and my wife’s name is Dora deJose.

  10. Ashevegasjoe

    Nancy wrote: “clap trap”, who’s potty-mouthed now? LOL, I’m sorry that just cracked me up. I think I sprained my vagina.

  11. Ashevegasjoe,

    “A Clap Trap, a name given to the rant and rhymes that dramatic poets, to please the actors, let them get off with: as much as to say, a trap to catch a clap, by way of applause from the spectators at a play.”

    Such rhetorical devices or actorly flourishes were thought unworthy of the serious dramatist or thespian. A writer in the The New-England Magazine in 1835, complained that in order to feed the performance of the lead actor, “The piece must abound in clap-traps”. Nor was the technique confined to the theatre itself: an article in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1855 about a new play said that “All the clap-traps of the press were employed to draw an audience to the first representation.”

    The word developed from a figurative theatrical device to encourage applause into a more general term for showy or insincere platitudes or mawkish sentimentality directed at the lowest common denominator of one’s audience. From there it was only a short step to the sense of talking nonsense or rubbish, though the older ideas are often still present.

    In all honesty I knew clap trap could be seen as rather potty mouthed but that use was not my intention however comical it did turn out to be.
    :-)

    It is still my belief that the Vagina Monologues are a clap trap and I would appreciate seeing any records that our LOCAL women’s centers indeed get at least 94 cents from every dollar earned at the two events in Asheville.

  12. Ashevegasjoe

    I know what “clap trap” means, thaks for the in depth definition. If you knew it would be seen as potty mouthed, how could that not, therefore, be your intention?

    I just enjoyed the play on words, and thought it ironic.

    Also, I have met to many demure southern belles who don’t even know the parts of their body. If this play empowers women to do some research, or not be afraid of talking about their vagina than I say right on. For too long women have been shamed into not asking questions about their clitoris, and vulva, and uterus. I haven’t seen the play, and probably won’t, but if some people find it empowering, than let them. If you don’t approve, don’t go, don’t take your children, but I am for the First Ammendment, and apposed to censorship. You make the choice of what to read and watch. I haven’t seen this play performed in any street festivals.

    If any southern belles would like a free tutorial on their bodies– call me, alllriight, giggity giggity!

  13. I agree with much of the sentiment of Ms. Robinson, if not the exact phrasing of some of her concerns. It’s interesting that Nam Vet characterized her as a ‘feminist’, when she seems to actually be criticizing the ‘third-wave’ feminism of the young, liberal college crowd and their seeming desire to fetishise and glorify juvenile-stage sexuality without boundaries.

  14. Ashevegasjoe

    also, Nancy why did you go to the play. Did you go in having no idea what it was about. Did you go in knowing that the play would horrify and piss you off? Either way is pretty ridiculous. I generally avoid paying to be appalled.

  15. Nam Vet

    Nancy is a decent person, and as such, assumes most others are. So she took a chance. It seems the far left just loves to shock and push the envelope, if not poke a big hole in that envelope. Another thing far leftwingers love to do is WHINE. So whining about body parts, and a woman’s lot in life is not unusual for lefties.

    Get this leftie whiners: life is full of stuff you don’t like. Unless you have a viable alternative to what you whine about, just learn to be stoic and give the rest of us a break. God created women to be companions and comforters to men, and to bear children. And to have the power to raise the next generation. Too many feminists have chosen to kill the next generation in the womb, because it is/was inconvenient to their ‘careers”. Ladies, play the hand dealt to you in this life, do the best you can, and quit whining. It is unsightly.

  16. Ashevegasjoe,

    We are in agreement on the first amendment hence my posted opinion. I watched the play on an HBO special documentary, and I did so because contrary to public opinion or your limited perception, I am open minded and listen to all sides before I make an informed decision. Can you say the same? I never said the play “pissed me off or horrified me” Those are your words. I said the play did nothing for women locally and until I find out differently, I am still going with that.

    You can like the play all you want, or not, I don’t, it’s that simple.

  17. Ashevegasjoe

    Nam Vet– I never would say or have said Nancy isn’t decent. I think it’s funny you chastise whiners, and then go on to whine about lefties. I think on a daily basis Rush does far more to “shock and push the envelope” than any lefty (see “Barack the Magic Negro”). I haven’t seen the play, but my girlfriend has and she assures me there is no whining, and that it does present an alternative view of the female body, in opposition to the norm presented by conservatives who teach that women should be afraid and not talk about their bodies.

    Nancy– I respect your point of view that it does nothing for women locally, but a lot of people disagree. I think you can both co-exist, and in your own terms be “right”. I never said I liked the play, I haven’t and probably won’t see it. Though now, after this discussion I probably should. The women I know who have seen it , loved it, and did not feel objectified, but amused and empowered. Like I said before, if it teaches them to not be afraid of thier body I think that’s a good thing. Also, to say I’m close-minded is a first. I am open to all ideas, writings, religions, and discussions any time.

  18. Billy P Patton

    Women’s private parts should not be discussed in public like this play does. It just isn’t decent. Sometimes the old ways are best.In the past this wouldn’t be allowed. It is demeaning to women. Can you imagine a play about men’s private parts? Let’s keep it clean for young families.

  19. Jawba the Hut

    Evolution has bossed around our sexual relationships long enough. Christianity and other Puritanisms have prevented us from even looking at evolution’s influences, and so we’re twice removed from understanding what slams men and women, and other groups, together to grapple and groan. Plays like the Vagina Monologues are an effort to see through all this misinformation. We just need to show it in the first grade instead of laying St. Paul and Martha Stewart on the poor heads of our young heathen. If romance and sex were a course in grammer school, people wouldn’t be puddy in the hands of evolution when puberty hit. As it is, they get married, at least by college’s end, and then, 40 to 60 years later they say: “What was that all about?” It was about the chemicals of evolution and the pressures of society. It’s not that complicated, but as long as people like Ms. Robinson hide behind the handerkerchief of false morality, we will continue to be pawns of our sexuality. Where have you gone Mrs. Robinson?

  20. Ashevegasjoe

    Billy: I’m sure someone has already jumped on that play you wanted to see about men’s private parts. By “old ways” being the best, would that include slavery and women not being allowed to vote?

    Also, the play isn’t in public, it is at theatres where people pay admission, or on HBO where Nancy and others choose to watch.

  21. Billy P Patton

    Joe, I’d include the black listing of socialists. That would help keep you in line. We used to be a decent nation before you liberals coopted our morals and bombarded us with pornography and baby killing abortionists. Church can fix what’s wrong with you bub.

    I pledge alliegence to the flag
    Of the Confederate States of America
    And the Confederacy for which it stands,
    One region, under God
    Not invadeable, with liberty and justice for all Southerners.

    Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

  22. Ashevegasjoe

    I’ve been to many churches (southern baptist, catholic, and pentecostal) and they have not only not “fixed” me, but re-affirmed the irrationality of waiting your whole life for Jesus to come back. For the record, no dead person has ever been resurrected, never came back, and people have waited for 2,000 years to prove it. Good Luck! I know the pledge, and I’m not waisting my life for someone to save me. Jesus is coming Look busy! You rhetoric is unbelievable, I think you are a plant

    don’t call me bub, neck

  23. cgo

    Why does a play about women’s vaginas have to be subjected to tarrifs supporting women’s shelters. Why not just make 50 cents to every dollar of all private ventures of plays, movies, tv shows go to women’s shelters. What is the correlation? Would a play about men’s penises call for cries of its profits going to men’s homeless shelters?

  24. Ken

    This quote from Nancy tells a lot:

    I couldn’t agree more with Ms Robinson.
    She makes very valid points. In this area alone we have a high rate of domestic violence. Then we have global violence against females. Do we really need potty mouth, bathroom humor to combat the atrocities committed against females of all ages?

    Well, we do NOT need potty mouth, bathroom humor to combat any atrocities. But so what. This is a theatrical work we’re talking about here. If you don’t like the Vagina Monologues, then fine. As for books, plays, and movies. I like some, and I don’t like others. As for the latter, you won’t find me running them down in the MountainX.

    Give some money to local nonprofits which benefit battered women. That’s a good cause. Fine. I have no problem with that.

    But don’t call the creators or performers of The Vagina Monologues “sexual deginerates” (sic), because that just makes you look repressed.

    Why did you call them that? Just asking.

  25. I don’t mind looking repressed, because I know that I’m not, but thank you for your concern of what others might think about me just the same.

    Why did I say sexual degenerates?
    Because in America we have what is called The first amendment and it guarantees that I have the freedom to state my opinion be it popular or not. You have the right to take the opposite point of view.

    The V-Day movement states that it is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls.
    If the play was billed as just a play then so be it, but it bills itself as one thing and then in my opinion does just the exact opposite.

    I personally know children who were molested, raped and sodomized and two adults who were raped.

    It’s not one bit funny nor theatrical.
    Yes they have the right to do the play and I have the right to give it an unfavorable review.

  26. dystopia

    Just so you know, “The Penis Responds” and “Cock Tales” are similar to “The Vagina Monologues” in some way. One is a playful response and the other tries to strike a serious chord like “The Vagina Monologues” does in certain speeches.

  27. “Get this leftie whiners: life is full of stuff you don’t like. Unless you have a viable alternative to what you whine about, just learn to be stoic and give the rest of us a break.”

    Wow. The irony is astounding.

  28. Ken

    Nancy,

    I asked you to state why you called the makers of the play “degenerates”. Your answer? Because in America we have the first amendment.

    That’s not a very good answer, and I’ll tell you why.

    You shouldn’t say something just because Americans are blessed to live with the protections of the first amendment.

    I could say that the sun rises in the west. Why can I say that? We have the first amendment; that’s why. Is it a wise thing to say? No.

    I could say that the Mountain Xpress personals ads are a better example of American literature than Huckleberry Finn is. Why can I say that? We have first amendment; that’s why. Is that a wise thing to say? No.

    You benefit from the fact that your speech, reasonable or not, is protected.

  29. Laurel Asheley

    Please, can wekeep some decorum here concerning women’s body parts?

  30. rawlins10

    Hi,
    I know this blog is quite old. But I feel a distinct need to say something about this.

    I performed in this year’s production of The Vagina Monologues at Appalachian State University. I performed the piece “My Vagina Was My Village.”
    I am shocked and appalled at the comments against this play. Yes it is disturbing, yes it is graphic, and yes, at times, it is in-your-face feminism. But there are facts and figures in that play that enlighten the audience every time it is performed.
    And to say that recounting in a poetic way what happened to the women of Bosnia in the 90s isn’t helping our cause, is the silliest most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. I had someone personally tell me after my performance, that she was a grade school teacher with a Bosnian girl in her class. She had no idea what those women had suffered and cried when she found out. She thanked me for bringing her attention so beautifully to a world-wide problem.

    Not to mention, the V-day organization is also trying to bring awareness to, and stop the femmicide going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    Oh and thank you for calling me and my castmates sexual deginerates. Kudos to you for judging people you don’t even know. Obviously, someone like you would know how to stop world-wide violence…..An obvious contradiction? I think so.

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