The international V-Day campaign has done amazing work for women world-wide — and women themselves have embraced V-Day in 120 countries. According to the campaign itself:
V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls, including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM) and sexual slavery.
Sounds like something we could all agree on, right?
Sadly, no. Domestically, “pro-life” groups dislike the campaign because it involves the v-word: Vagina. And because, apparently, helping to end violence against women doesn’t exactly mesh with the pro-life message. I realize that sounds a bit hyperbolic, but V-Day is, at heart, about empowering women and girls to take charge of their lives. That’s exactly contrary to the “pro-life” view of women, family and society.
Students at St. Louis University are trying to do their part for international women’s rights by holding a V-Day event on their campus. Unfortunately, the administration is shutting them down, so they need a little help and I’m hoping that Feministe can come through for them. Below the fold is an email from one of their organizers, detailing the problems and what you can do to help. Please check it out:
Undoubtedly, you are familiar with Eve’s Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, and the world-wide V-Day campaign to end violence against women and girls. At our Catholic, Jesuit University, V-Day is a very special time for UNA as it gives us an opportunity to raise awareness about gender violence as well as much-needed money for local charities that serve women. Last year, in 2007 UNA was told by the SLU administration that we would no longer be allowed to perform The Vagina Monologues on campus–ever. On top of this, we are not allowed to advertise on campus at all, or even set up tables to sell tickets. Determined to still raise money for our charities, we found an off campus location last year and the protests and controversy surrounding the production helped us sell out all our performances.
The reason the administration gave us for banning the Monologues was that having the production every year was “redundant.” They told us that they would be willing to support a future V-Day campaign on-campus if we found another production to do instead.
This year, we are once again performing The Vagina Monologues off-campus, and to avoid “redundancy,” we chose another Eve Ensler production, A Memory, A Monologue, and Rant, and a Prayer (MMRP) to be performed on campus to raise awareness. We thought that this would satisfy the administration. We thought wrong. Just a week before MMRP was scheduled to run, we were told that they would not approve the play. They said that this production was basically “Vagina Monologues 2,” and in order to be “consistent” with their previous decision they could not allow MMRP on campus since the Monologues were already banned. They claimed that they had to devote “too many resources” to defending the Monologues, and as Catholics they could not support either the Monologues or MMRP.” We are calling them on their BULLSHIT. The REAL reason that the Monologues are banned? MONEY and IMAGE! We know that a few vocal, big-money donors and Catholic groups have threatened to withdraw any money they give to SLU if Eve Ensler’s works are performed. But even more, SLU is scared of looking bad, and will do anything to maintain their public image.
To this we say–VAGINA is not a dirty word. Female sexuality is not obscene. By banning V-Day at SLU, they are silencing the voices of women who need their stories told. RAPE HAPPENS, VIOLENCE HAPPENS–THAT is the real vulgarity! Currently we are scrambling to find an off-campus venue to host MMRP because our ultimate goal is to raise money for the charities that depend on UNA’s yearly contributions. However, UNA is NOT taking this injustice and discrimination lying down.
HERE’S WHERE WE NEED YOUR HELP: UNA is currently working on a letter writing and email campaign to flood the administration in protest of their decision to ban the Monologues and MMRP. This is an issue of censorship and women’s rights. We are also contacting local and national media and our feminist supporters from other colleges in the St. Louis area to help us stage some type of dramatic, visual protest. As a loyal reader of Feministe, I also know the power of the blogosphere–and I want anyone who reads Feministe to write or call SLU in support of V-Day, the Monologues, and express your anger at the suppression of women’s voices.
I have composed a form letter below, feel free to edit it as you wish or write your own. Send responses directly to SLU’s president: email@example.com and CC the rest of the administration: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dear Saint Louis University,
I have recently been informed of SLU’s decision to not allow the performance of Eve Ensler’s productions The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer on SLU’s campus as part of UNA’s annual V-Day campaign. V-Day is a world-wide movement to end violence against women and girls that raises funds and awareness primarily through annual benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues. Since 1998, V-Day has raised more than $50 million dollars and is still going strong in its 10th year. V-Day funds have reopened shelters and funded community based anti-violence programs, as well as safe-houses for women all over the world. In St. Louis, proceeds from UNA’s annual productions of the Vagina Monologues raise money for The Catholic Worker Karen House for homeless women and children, and The Women’s Safe House for battered women and their children.
As a Catholic university whose motto is “men and women for others,” I cannot understand how silencing women’s voices is part of your Jesuit mission. Vagina is NOT a dirty word. Female sexuality is not obscene. By effectively banning V-Day at SLU, you are silencing the voices of women who need their stories told. RAPE HAPPENS, VIOLENCE HAPPENS—and THAT is the real vulgarity!
In your mission statement, you purport to promote “free, active and original intellectual inquiry.” How does censoring speech you disagree with fit in with that mission? The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer raise awareness and foster discussion about difficult yet important issues that affect women everywhere, especially in St. Louis. Yes, they are controversial, and make many uncomfortable—but since when have the Jesuits been afraid to stand up for equality, truth, and speak for the oppressed without a voice? Controversy is the very vehicle of social change. I urge you: stop censorship, stand up for honesty and support V-Day! Give UNA the freedom to campaign to end gender violence by allowing The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer to be held on campus–where it belongs! The V-Day campaign and The Vagina Monologues will not, and should not stop until we end violence against women and girls! The Jesuit mission should never have been used to censor free speech at SLU, and now it is time for your administration to do the right thing. I will be waiting and watching, and I am confident that SLU will be held responsible in the media, and by concerned citizens like me for whatever course of action your university chooses to take.
(Your name here)
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