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Panel divided over ‘Monologues’

Madeline Buckley | Friday, March 28, 2008

A panel discussing the sociological implications of “The Vagina Monologues” followed the second production of Eve Ensler’s controversial play Thursday in DeBartolo 101 and incorporated the views of Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop John D’Arcy through a representative.

Opponents continued to protest the play after 20 to 30 students walked out of Wednesday’s performance, and greeted the attendees by handing them religious medals and a copy of D’Arcy’s condemnation of the show.

The panel was composed of Lisa Everett, D’Arcy’s representative and co-director of the Offices of Family in Fort Wayne-South Bend, sociology professor Jessica Collett, anthropology professor Carolyn Nordstrom and political science professor Christine Wolbrecht.

Everett, the only member of the panel who also appeared after Wednesday’s performance, echoed D’Arcy’s sentiments regarding the “Monologues” and restated many of the same points she made the previous night.

In a six-page statement released on March 12, D’Arcy said allowing the play on campus “… is not consistent with the identity of a Catholic university” and said the play was “pornographic and spiritually harmful.”

Everett said the Monologues undermine the point it claims to make because some of the sexual acts celebrated in the play desecrate women.

“Several of the Monologues exalt sexual pleasure as an end in itself, severed from twin goods of love and life,” she said.

She pointed to the monologue entitled “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could,” which detailed the positive experience of a teenager’s seduction by an older woman.

“Sexual seduction of a minor is portrayed positively as an act of salvation,” she said. “You can’t have it both ways.”

Collett spoke on the sociological significance of the play.

“I was shocked with some of the language and topics of the play but I also realized that that was exactly the point,” she said.

While many condemned this technique of shock, Collett said it was an effective way to capture attention and make a point.

“[This exhibits the] power of language,” she said. “To many of us, the word vagina evokes disgust and shame.”

According to Collett, the play makes an effort to overcome the negative connotations surrounding the word ‘vagina’ by saying it and shouting it.

Nordstrom highlighted her experiences working in rape camps in Africa and Eastern Europe as a testament to the truth and importance of the “Monologues,” because it can give a voice to the countless women who have been brutally raped.

“I have seen this in Yugoslavia and Africa,” she said. “People tell stories about what hurts and what needs healing.”

Whether or not someone likes or agrees with the “Monologues” is inconsequential Nordstrom said.

“If you don’t like what is being said, say it better,” she stated, “But you can’t run away from the question.”

Nordstrom said the response the Monologues elicited and the full auditorium that came to see the play indicated that “obviously something is being said that is still important and still needs to be said.”

Wolbrecht related the Monologues to the second wave of feminism that occurred in the 1960s. She compared it to the tactic of “conscious-raising,” a technique of feminists to bring awareness of issues to the surface, to the often-criticized shock tactics used in the “Monologues.”

“The idea was that through sharing they could see the degree to which their own lives were shaped, constrained, and dominated by gender,” Wolbrecht said.

Wolbrecht said she was moved by the play.

“I forgot how moving it is to see 20-year-olds speak about things no one else is saying,” Wolbrecht said. “I was so inspired by this play.”

The “Monologues” concludes its run tonight at 7p.m. in DeBartolo 101.