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Investment in women

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, January 25, 2006

In response to The Observer article highlighting University President Father John Jenkins’ speech about academic freedom, I would like to thank Jenkins for providing specific reasons as to why this University is opposed to “Vagina Monologues.” This has allowed all of us to sit down with The Observer in one hand and a pen in the other to finally analyze these arguments. I respect the academic decorum Jenkins has urged in the current debate about the roles of controversial productions at Notre Dame, and out of respect for his desire for a rich debate, I hope to provide an opinion which help Jenkins in his “difficulty seeing” the full value of the monologues. My opinion on this manner is the opinion of a young woman who has survived sexual assault and has been empowered by the images of self-confident women portrayed in “Vagina Monologues.”

I’ll admit it – the first time I saw this production, it made me uncomfortable. For this reason, I didn’t really glean from it any true sense of empowerment. But I hung in there, hoping to discover why it was that this play had spread all over the world and had people picketing outside in a Notre Dame February chill. On the Debartolo Performing Arts Center stage last year, with the benefits of stage lighting and million-dollar acoustics, the “Vagina Monologues” were spectacular. That inspired production produced many supporters last year, and I am convinced that this is a contributing factor toward censorship of the play this year. Relegating the 2006 “Vagina Monologues” to 101 DeBartolo is indeed censorship, as it takes away both the visibility and artistic freedom that this play enjoyed in the DPAC.

I am hurt by Margot O’Brien’s careless comment that “We will lose our souls” as a result of productions like the “Vagina Monologues.” Victims of sexual assault and abuse often crush their emotions and memories about the incident with devastating effects on their own well-being. It can take a lot to shake loose the lid that has been shut on one’s soul. For me, it took the “Vagina Monlogues.” One who engages honestly in viewing this production will find overarching themes of empowerment, strength and pain. The monologues are not about any specific story of sex or violence or homosexuality. The monologues are about finding a way to laugh and cry at the same time about one’s own story as a woman, and then drawing strength from that story.

This play is about freedom. It is about discovering individuality, finding one’s voice and owning up to the truth about one’s past. These themes are all extremely relevant to college students and are all the more relevant to women in the context of the “Vagina Monlogues.” Notre Dame admitted the first brave women to this University in 1972, and I suggest Jenkins furthers this mission by aiding in our empowerment. Reward our bravery with the freedom to perform productions like the “Vagina Monlogues” and invest in the future quality of women’s lives at Notre Dame.

Alison KellyseniorWalsh HallJan. 24