V is for vindication of the female voice.
I appreciate the insistence that violence against women be taken seriously, and I even celebrate the activist undertones of Jenna Ashley Robinson’s [commentary] [“V Is for Violating Modesty and Dignity,” Feb. 13], which offered valuable resources for those interested in taking a stand against gender-based violence … . But I vehemently disagree that V-Day, and specifically performances of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, makes a “mockery” of feminism, women, sexuality, issues, change.
There is a direct connection between social power structures and sexual violence. Gender, race, class and sexuality are all systems that rely on hierarchy and violence … as tools for maintaining this power imbalance. Therefore, to truly create change, these issues must be looked at and talked about on a deeper level. Shelters and hotlines are important (performances of The Vagina Monologues raise millions for them every year), but they do not replace the need for a larger conversation about the roots of sexism, classism, racism etc. Violence against women cannot and will not be sequestered until stereotypical notions of women’s inferiority and worthlessness are challenged.
[This play] may not be a tangible solution to a problem, but it is certainly not counteractive to the [goal]. It does not promote promiscuity as much as it provides outlets for women other than the previously dominant virgin/whore/victim sexual dichotomy. It’s not supposed to make audiences feel comfortable—it’s supposed to evoke thoughts, words and feelings. It creates a place for women and their bodies and invites us to take back our “private parts” … historically suppressed and possessed by these “traditional values” Ms. Robinson is so worried about defending.
To call this a “sexual objectification—of women, by women” is a narrow perspective. Critics are often too quick to dismiss the play as vulgar, which only reinforces ignorance about the female body. If female sexuality is continually cast as evil, unclean and inappropriate, how will we ever be able to wholly change hegemonic stereotypes about gender? The Vagina Monologues is a celebration of women and their bodies—not [an] objectification. If nothing else, it has got us talking, which is an essential part of action. … Sexual violence cannot be fully addressed if women’s sexuality remains taboo and everyone is being too polite, or “modest,” to bring it up.
This past V-Day, I felt empowered. I learned from and celebrated my own body, and I thank each woman who was courageous enough to do the same.
— Elaine Chollet