We here at InkWell, as well as our sisters in the IWF in general, have devoted much ink to criticizing radical campus feminists for trying to wreck Valentine’s Day. (See “Be My V (No–Not Valentine,” Jan. 27). High on our hit-list has been Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, in which a bunch of actresses sit on a stage for two hours and talk about their private parts. The Vagina Monologues has now achieved the same status as Winter Carnival on many campuses, with some 656 colleges at last count staging the play on Cupid’s Day, which the rad-fems have renamed V-Day. (The “V” stands for either “vagina” or “violence” against women–which can range from wife-beating to good old heterosexual sex.)
But now, Guilford College junior J.S. e-mails to inform us that “The Vagina Monologues” made her day–her V-Day, that is:
“My college did a production of the Monologues this Valentine’s Day and….. I was moved to tears by the stories and emotions displayed upon the stage by various women of the community, several of whom were my friends. It was a brilliant piece of theater, thought-provoking and inspirational for all in the audience, male and female alike…
“In purely biological terms, women are first and foremost, sexual beings. So are men. Both sexes are influenced by our sex drives and hormonal responses. Unfortunately, the female sex drive has been ignored, hushed, and practically outlawed in many states. The Monologues don’t reduce the essence of womanhood to a specific body part, but they remind us that our vaginas are, in fact, still here. They always have been. Sexual organs remain the single most important physical difference between the genders and therefore, are indeed the source of womanhood….Men are subtly encouraged to participate in general promiscuity, but women are strongly encouraged to remain chaste and sexless until marriage (or something like it). It’s generally assumed that men masturbate, but women aren’t allowed to? You expect women to just turn off their sexual drives because society doesn’t like the idea of either their having sex or taking care of the problem themselves?….Masturbation is a safe, healthy way to reduce the natural sexual tension that arises in adolescent and adult women.”
That’s right. Ensler’s play, fixated obsessively on female pudenda, tells women that they are first and foremost–and nothing more than–“sexual beings,” that is, walking V’s, supersized reproductive organs. Interestingly enough, that’s more or less what the most mysogynistic ancient philosophers–I’m thinking Aristotle and the Neoplatonists–used to say about women. They held that women, by reason of their biological nature, had insatiable sexual appetites and were, in their natural state, ruled by their passions and emotions instead of their reason as men were. In order to lead the life of the mind, women had to transcend their natures, whereas men had merely to perfect theirs.
I had thought that the feminist movement was supposed to get us past all that. The early feminists, along with their forerunners in ages past such as Christine de Pisan and Mary Wortley Montague, had to fight this sort of prejudice and argue that women’s minds were just as good as those of men. It was centuries before women got to go to college, become doctors and lawyers, and so forth. So now we have Eve Ensler–and her fan J.S.–informing us that, no, it’s not women’s minds but their “[s]exual organs” that are “the source of womanhood.” Gee, thanks, Eve, for setting us back 200 years.
Second, maybe I sound like Aunt Prune, but this annual orgy, as it were, of vagina-izing the campus is simply in bad taste. It’s gross, it’s vulgar, it’s disgusting. Of course the vagina is a wonderful thing, even a sacred thing; it’s the gateway to the making and bringing into the world of new human life. That’s why women and men of all human cultures throughout history have respected women’s natural modesty with respect to publicly displaying–or “monologuing” about–intimate activity connected with an intimate bodily part. Quite frankly, I don’t want to participate in, or have to endure, two hours’ worth of onstage gabbing and chortling about matters that I discuss only with my husband, my physician, and perhaps a close friend or two. That goes for masturbation as well. Gals, feel free to masturbate to your heart’s content if that’s what floats your boat, but I don’t want to hear about it. Please!
The ironic thing is that this time last winter, a bunch of Harvard co-eds were up in arms because some guys had crafted a penis-shaped snow sculpture in the Harvard Yard. I was on the young women’s side. Harvard is supposed to be a place of higher learning, not higher leering. But when it comes to the ubiquitous displays of female gentialia on the day that used to be known as Valentine’s Day, that’s not bad taste; that’s liberation! University of Pennsyvania professor Erin O’Connor’s blog Critical Mass lists (with links) some of the campus absurdities: the six-foot vagina at Syracuse, the vagina-shaped lollipops at Cornell, the chalk vagina on the sidewalk at the University of Oregon. Aren’t there some female students on those campuses with the good sense and good taste to object to their being reduced to mere sex objects?
In another e-mail, reader S.L. takes The Other Charlotte and me to task for our running critique of The Monster, the movie that makes a Victim of Society out of executed serial killer Aileen Wuornos. (See “The Monster We (Of Course!) Created” and “‘Monster’ Mash: The Charlottes Disagree,” Feb. 10, and “‘Monster’ Mash 2: Don’t Blame Me!,” Feb. 11.) S.L. writes:
“I don’t believe the real Wuornos deserved to die, and in fact she should have been acquitted and she should be thought of as a vigilante and admired for her honesty. Why? If we are talking about the movie the social hypocrisy is explained in the line. ‘People kill each other every day.’ [Wuornos] says….The comment that it was stupid for Wuornos not to go to the police after the first killing because of the rape is very na’ve. The police are corrupted all across the country. and rapists have more rights than the victims in the court….
“Wuornos should be admired for her honesty, for example, when Wuornos starts yelling at the lawyer when applying for the job. She expresses what she feels in the moment and doesn’t play kiss-up games. In every interview and even her court appearances she says what she feels in the moment….I cannot judge her because she was the product of abuse that can not be denied. She was mad as hell and she wasn’t going to take it any more. The truth is she said what many of us really what to say to that guy with the power over our jobs and careers.”
Vigilante?? In the movie, Aileen Wuronos kills four men. Of the four, one was a brutal rapist who deserved what he got (and the law would probably agree), two were guilty only of seeking to buy the sexual services she was selling, and the fourth was an innocent Good Samaritan. When I last looked, being a prostitute’s customer was not a capital offense. In real life, Wuornos killed seven men, none of whom, according to the evidence at trial, had either had sex with her or attempted to have it; they had simply made the mistake of picking up a hitchhiker.
Second–and I don’t think I need to say this–screaming the F-word like Aileen Wuornos at your job interview is not a good way to get the job. Either you want to get hired, or you want the satisfaction of telling your potential boss to shove the gig where the sun don’t shine. It’s your choice.
Finally, here’s an e-mail from L.H., about something we haven’t discussed here at InkWell but perhaps should: the medical controversy over hormone replacement therapy:
” I stopped taking estrogen/progesterone six months ago after all the uproar about cancer and heart disease and the study that snagged the media’s attention and prompted many women to toss their prescriptions in the trash. I tossed mine. After six months of physical and emotional agony, I went to my gynecologist, my internist, my psychologist, my psychiatrist–and asked each of them for an opinion. Should I resume taking HRT?
“The conclusion–my quality of life diminished greatly after discontinuing HRT–and it had nothing to do with dry vagina or hot flashes. What I heard from most of my physicians is the study that caused the uproar was not a reliable study. They all felt it left more questions unanswered than it had ever answered. They felt confused and could not answer the one question I asked them: Can HRT cause a healthy woman to develop cancer or heart disease? They said the study did not address that question–nor did it answer it. They felt that the news media was largely responsible for the panic that caused women to stop taking HRT. They all have patients like me who are not doing well off HRT. Some of the problems their patients have encountered are depression, suicide attempts, debilitating muscle pain and joint pain, loss of physical mobility, exhaustion from lack of sleep, and panic attacks.
“I’ve been back on HRT for two weeks. If there are others who have experienced similar reactions to quitting HRT, I’d like to hear their voices.”
This isn’t a medical blog, and The Other Charlotte and I don’t have enough medical knowledge between us to enable us to diagnose a sick flea. I myself, long before the damning study came out, thought long and hard about the pros and cons of HRT when symptoms of approaching menopause began. I decided that there were other, cheaper ways in which I could handle the problems of middle age. For example, HRT was touted as helping women stay mentally alert, but I’ve concluded that teaching Latin works just as well and costs me nothing. (I feel the same way about other remedies touted for the cure of estrogen-starvation-induced senility. I’d rather parse the “biloba” in Ginkgo biloba than take the stuff.)
Nonetheless, I do know that many of the objections to HRT before the study came out last August were as much political as medical. The kind of feminists who declare that you have a moral duty to let your hair go gray were arguing that it was “natural” for women to feel like hell during menopause. Others whined that using pregnant mares’ urine as a source of the estrogen was mean to animals. So I really don’t know about this latest study. Perhaps, as S.L. asks, other InkWell readers have thoughts on this matter.