Support V-Day at St. Louis University

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: and CC the rest of the administration:,,,,,

The letter:

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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35 comments for “Support V-Day at St. Louis University

  1. Jha
    February 14, 2008 at 12:59 am

    My university is also a Jesuit institution, and we definitely NEVER have this kind of nonsense going on. MMRP is NOT a Vagina Monologues 2… and, just… ugh.

  2. Ghigau
    February 14, 2008 at 1:42 am

    I’m a little off-kilter at the moment, so I really hope this makes sense. My letter:

    Dear Saint Louis University,

    I have recently learned that Saint Louis University decided to ban two of Eve Ensler’s plays, The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, and a Prayer, from production on campus forever. As you know, these plays are performed as part of UNA’s annual V-Day campaign. V-Day events have raised more than $50 million dollars toward an effort to end violence against women worldwide, and I am troubled that you have decided to censor these events on your campus.

    As the mother of two daughters, I will most certainly think twice before encouraging them to attend SLU, because the administration appears to believe that a part of their bodies – made in God’s image – is somehow shameful or dirty. “Vagina” is neither a dirty word nor a shameful thing. It is a part of our bodies, a part particularly fraught with both positive and deeply negative meaning for all of us. Women are not all about titillation and seduction and sin, and neither are vaginas. They are, after all, how each of us came into this world.

    I urge you strongly to rethink your decision to ban The Vagina Monologues and A Memory, A Monologue, and A Prayer from on-campus venues. Your decision as it stands reflects a negative attitude toward women.



  3. February 14, 2008 at 3:00 am

    email sent. happy to help in what little way i possibly can

  4. Shinobi
    February 14, 2008 at 10:24 am

    I am from the St. Louis Area, and I can’t help but wonder if the new Arch Bishop also had a say in this. As far as I can tell he’s the MiniPope. (Read, a Nazi)

  5. Shinobi
    February 14, 2008 at 10:51 am

    My response:
    Dear St. Louis University,

    It was brought to my attention that you have banned the production and promotion of the Vagina Monologues on the SLU campus, along with other plays written by Eve Ensler. As former resident of the St. Louis Area, and I have recently been considering applying to your John Cook for graduate school next fall. I am very proud of the Catholic education I recieved at Visitation Academy, and feel that I could be equally proud of a strong education from SLU. However, your school’s censorship and apparent lack of commitment to the concerns of women concerns me greatly. Having preformed The Who’s Tommy at a local Jesuit High School a number of years ago, I am frankly shocked at this level of censorship from a Jesuit University.

    I am aware of the conservative culture in the St. Louis Area, I am also aware that church officials have become even more conservative in the area since I left there many years ago. However I think it is wrong of St. Louis University to give in to these restrictive pressures, especially when giving in means helping people less.

    As a Jesuit educational institution you should first be promoting open mindedness and education. You should be doing what is in the best interests of your students and the community and not cave to pressures that dislike what they do not understand. I would encourage anyone who speaks against the Vagina Monologues to first see the production and digest it. My take aways from the production helped me learn to love my body more, and to understand what some women go through when they are raped and hurt. I do not recall that the production promotes premarital sex, or inappropriate acts any more than network TV. The production may not entirely reflect a Catholic philosophy, but would SLU also ban the discussion and of other religions from it’s grounds? Would you ban discussions on your grounds of anything that is not entirely complicit with Catholic doctrine? If so, then I think you are not fit to call yourselves a place of education, but rather, a place of ignorance.

    Your students, and the people of the St. Louis Area are intelligent enough to see a production and take away from it what is valuable. If they do not agree with the values presented by a production, then by all means, they should not see it again. I am confident however that they would be glad to know that the money they paid to see a production they may not have agreed with is going to help The Catholic Worker Karen House for homeless women and children, and The Women’s Safe House for battered women and their children.

    I hope that you will reconsider your decision and support your students in helping to aid local women and spread awareness about women’s issues.

    Visitation Academy ’00
    Carnegie Mellon University ’04

  6. meggygurl
    February 14, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Sent one!

    The university I graduated from also tried to forbid us from preforming TVM. Luckily, we fought them and won. And every year we happily sold chocolate vaginas as part of our fund raiser.

  7. February 14, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Happy V-Day.

    I wish The Vagina Monologues wasn’t so crummy.

  8. mellow
    February 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    I think that the Vagina Monologues are vulgar, not because they contain the word vagina, but because they reduce women’s identity to their vaginas. Sure, the vagina is often objectified during abuse against women. But is focusing on a sexual organ the way to bring about healing? I say no. We need to appreciate women as women not as vaginas. There is so much more beauty, mystery, and sacredness about women than this play allows for. The Vagina Monologues are just perpetuating the problem of reducing women to their sexuality.

  9. February 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    (though the letter is, natch, written, and I’m seeing it on Saturday)

  10. zuzu
    February 14, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    And we have our first troll!

    (This will only make sense if Jill actually approves the comment now sitting in the mod queue).

    I’d been wondering when the “this play is bad because it reduces women to their vaginas” and/or “how can you call yourselves feminists? This play promotes rape!” canards would show up.

  11. mellow
    February 14, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Well, it’s true.

  12. February 14, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I say approve it, if only because my Internet talons haven’t been sharpened yet today, and I’d love to pounce on that.

  13. Laurie
    February 14, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    Redundant. Right….

    ‘Cause the productions of “A Christmas Carol” every year is redundant. And the ubiquitous productions of “The Nutcracker” (which I believe pretty much every major ballet company in the country does, not to mention the amateur productions) EVERY YEAR is redundant. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade — every year, same balloons, different bands, but same ending. Chrstimas/Easter specials that get hauled out every. single. year.

    Human nature THRIVES on redundancy. It’s just that when we LIKE it, we call it tradition. And I thought that *traditionally* the Jesuits were the really, really open minded and scholarly branch of the Catholic Church. What happened?

    Yeah, yeah. Rant over. Writing letter now. :)

  14. Hector B.
    February 14, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Last year, my local Jesuit school required their V-Day producers to keep a low profile, and had administration reps explain to the audience before the show why they were sponsoring the performance. Afterwards they led discussion about what people thought, thus making the performance “educational.” But at least they didn’t ban the production.

    Apparently the Cardinal Newman Society, a group dedicated to preserving Catholic values on college campuses, had a 2006 campaign to prevent performances of the “morally offensive” play at all Catholic universities.

  15. Hector B.
    February 14, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    zuzu’s comment reminds me there is one questionable scene in the original Vagina Monologues that has been modified for the V-Day productions.

  16. Mnemosyne
    February 14, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    It always amazes me how many “pro-life” people are squicked out by the birth process. Oh, it’s all so beautiful and wonderful and natural, which is why you should never ever speak about it or the dirty parts that make it happen. Seriously, I’ve seen people act all offended because someone used the word “uterus” when talking about her ultrasound. And these were women who had children!

    The “birth canal”? That’s a euphemism for vagina. Deal with it.

  17. February 14, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    There is so much more beauty, mystery, and sacredness about women

    Man oh man, what a concern troll.

    Just a hint…pressing the ejector seat button and flinging women up on a pedestal does not mean you care at all about them. Making women “mysterious” and “sacred,” as if they were something to tie up and cage, ain’t the way to go.

    The Vagina Monologues are just perpetuating the problem of reducing women to their sexuality.

    No, “reducing women to their sexuality” is the job of outside forces. VM’s use of women discussing their own sexuality != reducing them to their sexuality.

  18. meggygurl
    February 14, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    If you ever actually watch the monologues… you will realize that they talk about much more then just vaginas.

    But why is focusing an entire series of monologues on JUST the vagina important? Because we live in a society where men have reduced us to just the vagina and women are scared of their own vaginas. Women who believe it is *disgusting* to deal with it. Imagine! Their own body parts! The vagina is such an important part of womanhood… it’s from a vagina we all come. It is the center of life and pleasure (technically…. this is the clitoris which is NOT the vagina… but anyway) and something men have been trying to close up for thousands of years.

    I know i shouldn’t feed the troll… but the monologues are very important to me.

  19. Hector B.
    February 14, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    flinging women up on a pedestal does not mean you care at all about them.

    I forget who said this: “Men put women on a pedestal so they can look up their skirts.”

  20. February 14, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    I’m sure it’s Archbishop Burke or his minions. As you may recall, SLU hired the splendid Rick Majerus to coach their men’s basketball team; Majerus, one of the best minds in college hoops, is also a Hillary Clinton supporter and spoke at one of her rallies. Burke wanted him disciplined because Clinton is pro-choice, and having an avowedly pro-choice basketball coach didn’t fit with the university’s mission in the Archbishop’s sixteenth-century mind.

    Majerus, of course, can work anywhere — he’s that good and that well-known. It’s an easier target to take on young men and women fighting for gender justice who have no comparable resources.

  21. February 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I like Majerus a lot- him staring down Makhtar Ndiaye after the 1998 Final Four was a thing of beauty- but I wouldn’t say he’s THAT good.

  22. February 14, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Good enough that if SLU gave him his walking papers, he’d have his pick of most open positions in the NCAA, his health notwithstanding. Good enough to have the assurance that if he tells Burke and the Catholic League where they can go, he will land on his feet unscathed. Folks out here at USC still regret that he turned them down and they’re stuck with the earnest but as of yet unimpressive Tim Floyd.

    But we digress.

  23. Mnemosyne
    February 14, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    On the vagina topic, apparently Jane Fonda used a “vulgar slang term” for vagina on the Today show this morning and was forced to apologize. So they wouldn’t let her say “vagina,” but they wouldn’t let her use a slang term, either. What was she supposed to do, wordlessly gesture to her crotch every time she would have said the filthy word “vagina”?

  24. unhurt
    February 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    There is so much more beauty, mystery, and sacredness about women than this play allows for. The Vagina Monologues are just perpetuating the problem of reducing women to their sexuality.

    of course, we would much rather be reduced to mysterious sacred creatures (who must also be beautiful, dammit! ugly women, old women etc. etc. need not apply for roles requiring sacredness or mysteriousness. but don’t be too upset – you won’t ever be sacred enough, and your mystery will be held up as proof that a man just can’t be expected to understand those bizarre female creatures – not like he can real people).

    p.s. while good plays about men can and do focus on one theme, one aspect of ‘humanity’, one type of man, it appears plays about women must cover all possible aspects of women, womanhood and women’s experience or be judged a CLEAR FAILURE. this is, of course, totally fair.

  25. UNA at SLU
    February 14, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Jill, thank you so much for putting my letter up. We at UNA really appreciate anyone who writes in support of our campaign. We are having a protest tomorrow afternoon and hopefully it will be successful, as we have contacted our local media. I think pink duct tape over our mouths will make for a nice visual…

    Also, does anyone know of any liberal Catholic (haha) organizations or charities that might support V-Day?

  26. meggygurl
    February 14, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Also, does anyone know of any liberal Catholic (haha) organizations or charities that might support V-Day?

    I don’t really know… but a friend of mine graduated from Loyola in New Orleans, which is a Jesuit school. They had a pretty good habit from what I recall of “not noticing” when their students did things like this. Maybe someone from that campus can help you guys out? Give you some tips.

    (Apparently, anytime the Pop got mad, they would blame the US Government. Hee.)

  27. Anne
    February 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    You should address your letters to Fr. Biondi and not St. Louis University. I love how the basketball coach made public statements supporting the pro-choice movement and Fr. Biondi didn’t even respond when the archbishop wanted him to punish the man. But when female students want to put on the Vagina Monolouges (which was great last year, btw, even though the exact same thing happened last year to where they almost couldn’t put it on. They did it off campus at the Phyllis Wheatley Center) he suddenly feels too pressured by others to allow it. I guess if you have a penis and you make the school money then you can say whatever you want and he’ll stand by you, but if you have a vagina, even though you pay to go to school at SLU, you will be silenced.
    SLU is Jesuit when it benefits and “non-religious” when it benefits. I hate SLU.

    Fr. Biondi is lucky I didn’t hear about the whole rape victims are liars bit a few years ago when it happened otherwise he’d have about 100 new holes to poop from after I finished with him.

  28. Kelly
    February 15, 2008 at 12:38 am

    Well, here at Providence College, we have had to perform Vagina Monologues off-campus the last three years, because it got banned on campus. It is a tough battle with the ridiculous Catholics…it’s nice to know we’re not the only one’s dealing with it.

  29. February 15, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Gonzaga in Spokane, WA, shut us down back in 2001.

    They also cancelled a Women’s Studies Club’s informal chat with a rep from Planned Parenthood (about the upcoming elections).

    These and other incidents led to a huge split among the faculty and directly led to the resignation of one professor.

    Robert Spitzer, who did all of this, wrote a book on leadership. It became a bestseller, during a time when he was screaming at profs during staff meetings.

    A friend of mine had a job at the local paper as a copy editor. She was playing around with the copy of the story “Jesuit Priest Pens Bestseller” and temporarily changed it to say “Nazi Priest.” Then, however, the paper went to press like that. She no longer works at the local paper.

  30. Emily
    February 17, 2008 at 8:13 am

    um yeah, couldnl;t aggree more, if someobdy’s a chick with a /used to havea/dick and you;re not into it, then a balanced person says thanks but nothanks and moves on…

  31. Makenna
    February 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    So they wouldn’t let her say “vagina,” but they wouldn’t let her use a slang term, either. What was she supposed to do, wordlessly gesture to her crotch every time she would have said the filthy word “vagina”?
    *Imagines Jane Fonda frantically gesturing at her crotch*

    I shouldn’t find that image so funny, but I do. Cause, you know, we’re supposed to have them and keep them for the use of others (male others), but we’re not supposed to talk about them, acknowledge them, or even know about them.

    I’m a student at the University of San Francisco, yet another Jesuit institution, and from what I’ve heard we’ve had a tradition of an annual VM performance for a long time. I didn’t catch this year’s performance (it was $15 and I have virtually no money), but it seems to me that it is supported by students and staff alike. Of course, we’re the damn liberal crazies here in San Francisco.
    The whole reason I chose this school was its (Jesuit) mission statement. It’s disheartening to me that SLU’s mission statement only applies when convenient, AND they aren’t owning up to it. I bet the show would be allowed if they had an outspoken, female donor.

  32. Elliptic
    February 24, 2008 at 3:55 am

    I just can’t quite get over the transparency of their justification. They’re not even trying. The play is banned because multiple performances are redundant? What are they going to do, ban Hamlet?

    E-mail sent. With… customization.

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