Loyal Daughters’ humor detracts from true dialogue
Jon Buttaci | Monday, February 19, 2007
In fairness to the advocates of “The Vagina Monologues,” it is a popular play that is part of our modern, national culture. In some sense, it is not unreasonable for it to be considered in a modern university setting, say in a course on gender studies or sexual assault. Although, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, its content conflicts not only with Catholic values but also with academic values, it nevertheless has made a large enough impact to be considered in a limited and appropriate way by students.
Now, by “appropriate way” I do not mean an annual performance by amateur actresses. The greatest classics of the West, such as Hamlet or Oedipus Rex, are only performed once a decade, if at all. Some of the best plays reach the stage only once or twice a generation, if we’re lucky. Even if it is tolerable for such a trashy and explicit play (by comparison) to be performed and sponsored at Notre Dame on one occasion, there is certainly no reason to justify it being performed six years in a row.
As suggested by Mary Elizabeth Walter (“Dialogue is not dead,” Feb. 19), there are many more effective ways for dialogue about the issue of the equal dignity of men and women. The Edith Stein Conference and the Right to Life Collegiate Conference are great examples of the issue considered in an intellectual and academic setting. She suggested another option, however, one with which I take issue. She seemed to imply that the performance of Loyal Daughters is a better way to explore the issues of sexual assault on campus. This play is pure sophistry and in no way adds to the important pursuit of Truth, to which Walter alluded. Although it is less explicit, it is much more dangerous. It does not address the issues in an intelligent way, but rather uses humor, stories and catchy tunes to attack the Catholic view of chastity and Notre Dame. These attacks are fallacious and have no grounding in reason. They in no way resemble an intellectual consideration of the real problems we are facing.
The clearest example of this is the skit involving a logic professor who (ironically enough) uses false logic to try to point out a contradiction in University policy that does not exist. Since the skit imitates a well-known logician on campus and employs exaggerated gestures, viewers are too busy laughing to actually think, “Wait a second: this is terrible logic!” The performance is marked by many such skits that “prove” their points not by reason but by jokes and jabs.
Now, I don’t know if the writers, performers and advocates of Loyal Daughters are aware of their error, whether it is done out of ignorance or malice. I do know that because of its humor and seemingly innocuous content it is much more effective in keeping viewers from any intellectual consideration of the issues than “The Vagina Monologues” was, and therefore is much more dangerous. The reason that Plato argued in The Republic for censorship was not because the poetry and drama in question were explicit, but because they led people away from living by reason and toward living by delight. And since the goal of the university is to pursue universal truth, anything which hinders students’ ability to think clearly and pursue this truth effectively is inconsistent with our academic character. “The Vagina Monologues” was accordingly inconsistent and now lacks sponsorship. To a much greater degree, Loyal Daughters mocks these same academic values. University President Father John Jenkins initially saw the inconsistency of a play called “Loyal Daughters” with our Catholic character. If only we realized that its offense is first and foremost against our academic character, then our University would continue its laudable work and deny sponsorship to Loyal Daughters as well.