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Catholicism equals patriarchy?

Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 24, 2006

Critics of President Father John Jenkins’ “closing statement” should help us understand their response to the following questions. In what sense does “The Vagina Monologues” mount an “attack” on the Church or on Catholic teaching or the Magisterium? “Does it really reduce women to one of the female organs of reproduction?”

No doubt theatre and film can be used to attack corporate greed or the war in Iraq. But since I’m not a trained film critic, I ask myself such simple questions as how does “The Vagina Monologues” stack up against such “classics” as “Roger and Me,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” or “Bowling for Columbine?”

The difference that seems most significant is that there is never, ever, any doubt as to who or what Michael Moore is attacking: the CEO of General Motors, President George W. Bush and his rubber stamp Congress, absentee or uninvolved parents and indifferent school teachers.

Who or what is Eve Ensler attacking? Women? The Catholic Church? The Magisterium? The proposition that sex outside marriage uniting a man and a woman is sinful? Forgive my dullness, please, I just don’t read the script that way.

I read “The Vagina Monologues” as a very broad satire, even a burlesque, of the basic principle of patriarchy – that men control female sexuality and fecundity and, necessarily, women’s bodies, particularly their reproductive organs. It also ridicules male control of the language and speech used to describe female sexuality and women’s bodies and body parts.

As a Catholic, I would like to believe that an attack on patriarchy is NOT in itself an attack on Catholicism or on Catholic sexual morality. I would also appreciate the opportunity to invite my students to interpret such texts as “The Vagina Monologues” for themselves.

Would it be too much to ask those who disagree with this interpretation of “The Vagina Monologues” and the academic freedom appropriate for college students to rebut it directly?

Edward Manierprofessor of philosophy and historyApril 21