I am with Jenna Robinson [“V Is for Violating Modesty and Dignity,” Feb. 13] on supporting the work of the National Organization of Women; however, her response to V-Day events … across North Carolina does little more than add to the general focus on women as victims. There is a fine line between the objectification of and violence done to women. There is another between awareness and action. What alternative does Robinson offer besides continuing to focus on women as passive, in need of protections? … Can she acknowledge that she may have blinders?
Eve Ensler might could be more proactive herself, but as for her plays and the actresses in them deserving respect, clearly her personal and tribal biases take over. Reading the playwright’s work as threatening proves that Robinson stands to lose privilege, or the appearance thereof. The late Audre Lorde taught: “The master’s tools can never be used to dismantle the master’s house.” In this way, outrageous tactics aim to combat serious events, and our collective survival depends upon bearing witness to uncomfortable moments of others. Can Robinson think more deeply about why the work makes her uncomfortable? I believe that she read the play literally, filtering it through a narrow cosmology. In my experience, a healthy person, comfortable in their own skin, can handle a little attention directed toward their person; they can face their shadow side; they have agency. Ensler highlights a phase of awareness of physicality, a phase to which one may return again and again. This does not necessarily deny the emotional or spiritual. I would argue that these cannot be separated out cleanly.
Basically, Robinson’s definition of dignity differs from mine. I see connections between finding one’s voice and growing into a whole person, between modesty and passivity. She [appears to] prefer charity to seeing messy confessional work on a stage. Anyone who has felt consistently outside of their body [or] society knows how tiresome constantly educating becomes. In this way, some of us choose to find other coping mechanisms and ways to celebrate.
Scorn for “a feminist agenda” shows ignorance of and ungratefulness for the work of feminists from time immemorial. I do not doubt for one second that Robinson enjoys much liberty and opportunity. The essay betrays heterosexist paranoia as well, and I suggest that she take another look at Stephanie Coontz’s The Way We Never Were for some facts on the myth of “traditional values.”
I acknowledge The Vagina Monologues … for telling a kind of truth. There must be room in the public forum for all voices so that we may learn from each other.
— Melissa McKee