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Biology cannot be discounted

Letter to the Editor | Thursday, April 27, 2006

Back in February, I was quite pleased to see many detractors of “The Vagina Monologues” presenting their views in a frank yet cogent manner. Many of their clear, well-founded points gave me pause and challenged me to re-evaluate my own motives in participating in this year’s performance of the play. Recently, however, the frequent and generic contrasts made between the portrayal of women in the play (which has apparently transcended its humble beginnings as an artistic social satire to attain the status of a theological treatise) and the Church’s teachings about female personhood have been both irritating and inadequately explored.

In his most recent polemic, Professor Emeritus Rice argues that the Monologues violate the “unity of soul and body” mentioned in Pope John Paul II’s writings by encouraging women to identify with their vaginas. I give him credit for asserting that women should not think of themselves solely in terms of their biology, but I would challenge him to illustrate how exactly “the ennobling Catholic teaching on women and sexuality” diverges from this trend. Can anyone who has actually read the discourses of the Church fathers on women look one of us in the face and tell us that our biology does not dictate our standing within the Church?

Because women have vaginas, we cannot act in persona Christi as ordained ministers of God’s Word. The “natural resemblance” demanded by Thomas Aquinas includes the presence of a penis on the person of the priest.

Because women have vaginas, we are to play the role supposedly dictated to us by God through the receptive nature of our genitalia: submission and silence. Our husbands are to choose and actively initiate the process of procreation. Should a woman say or think otherwise, John Paul II deems her to have an “unnatural resistance” to motherhood.

Because women have vaginas, we are essentially different from men, down to the very core of our beings. Women and men are mutually alien and incomplete. We require union in order to achieve full personhood. This pathological codependency, which would be treated as a mental disorder if fully expressed on the individual level, is known in the Church as the principle of complementarity, a divine mechanism of God’s own design.

In writing this letter, I wish to point out the inherent hypocrisy of using vague references to gender-imbalanced writings to denounce “The Vagina Monologues” for identifying women with their genitalia. I would challenge future columnists to do their homework and present Church documents whose portrayal of women actually runs counter to what they see in the play. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

Nicole HuirassophomorePangborn HallApril 25