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Deeper discussion of sexuality needed

Letter to the Editor | Monday, November 20, 2006

The work of an artist reads the sign of the times. Emily Weisbecker (writer and producer), Madison Liddy (director) and the company of actors in “Loyal Daughters” have done just that. The dialogues center stage the tragic battery of soul, heart and body by sexual assault; they bring to life ways in which students struggle with sexuality. Breaking our community silence on these matters is exhausting work. As a new member of the community, I came to see “Loyal Daughters” because I was curious about the intellectual and cultural environment in which I now teach and write. A writer’s courage in baring the soul of a community is precious. So is the community’s response to what is written and staged. The audience Thursday night was lively and I examined my own response to the dialogues with theirs. Much of what I saw in “Loyal Daughters” was disturbing. And rightly so. Raw sexual violence is hard to see and hear. I balanced the need to shock against the erotic spectacle much in evidence in the play. However, I could not get myself to give a pass to the treatment of religious experience. The student considering priesthood was at best very, very odd. And if the young man of “faith” who forgives his partner for her sexual past was supposed to be a man of faith, spare me, O Lord! Even the Mother of God was mocked. Perhaps the woman at the Grotto was serious in her prayer; the snickering and general hoo-ha by the audience during the dialogue convinced me otherwise. So did the content of her words. Despite much that was moving and honest about women’s experience as represented on the stage, I expected as we got past the hour mark that perhaps we’d see some example of women helping women. Were there no stories in the interview material about women helping friends to heal worthy of the stage? Were there no stories in which women talk deeply about sexuality? Is goodness in the community of women a bore? Last, but not least, must we in serving up collective pain make the community of women at Saint Mary’s the butt of a sexist joke? Let’s probe the reasons why we can’t or don’t portray women’s friendships as a source of healing. Let’s discuss why we can’t or don’t stage the deep experiences of religion (what it takes to be good, what it takes to pray) as part of sexuality or as responsive to the needs of persons (mostly women) who have been assaulted. Otherwise, we writers risk making more silence: women’s silence.

Eva Hooker, CSCEnglish professor and writer-in-residenceSaint Mary’sNov. 19