An Open Letter To 'The Observer'
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02
Upon reading The Observer’s recent piece, "Open Letter to Fr. Leahy," I was appalled but unfortunately not surprised. This is not only because of The Observer’s reputation at Boston College of publishing clumsily contentious pieces of writing, but also because of the way that this university approaches feminism and sexuality as a whole.
The Vagina Monologues is a widely celebrated episodic play written by feminist Eve Ensler in 1996. The performance of this play has, over the course of 15 years, grown into the ‘V-day movement’ and has raised over $90 million for groups that work to end violence against women. However, because its title contains the word Vagina and the monologues talk candidly about feminine sexuality, this performance piece makes some people uncomfortable despite all the good it does for the community and the world. Each time the monologues are performed, at BC and at the thousands of other college campuses that put it on each year, a move is made to break the taboo of talking about female sexuality in a healthy, normal way, and not being made to feel lewd or unfeminine in doing so. It pushes actors and viewers, male and female, out of the comfort zones in which they are used to living with respect to conversation about vaginas, clitorises, and the sexual awakenings and experiences of real women. This is not movie sex, this is not porn sex. This sex is not always agreeable or sexy. Some sex is scary. Some sex isn’t legal. Some sex is rape. Some sex is just plain good. Good or bad, these stories come from the real lives of real people. Ensler interviewed hundreds of women for the play, and has taken their narratives and placed them in a context where they can be retold in such a way as to benefit others. Therefore, each story deserves respect and should not be dismissed simply because it seems inappropriate or makes you feel something you can’t understand.
The play does not "reduce the female person to her sexual organs" as Canniff and Mack contend in their letter, but rather embraces the female as a whole person including her sexual organs and sexuality, important and very real aspects of the woman as whole that are often ignored or dismissed by men and women alike.
Let’s clarify: the Vagina Monologues is not a "controversial exploitation of human sexuality." Rather, it is free and open expression of female sexuality that is rare in its honesty and lack of inhibition, and to take that from BC would be an enormous step in the wrong direction.