As Valentine’s Day rolls around, you might imagine young men ordering flowers and chocolates and young women pouring through cards and preparing for romantic dates. Well, not quite. While these genteel gestures certainly thrive in sequestered corners of American college campuses, “V-Day” has replaced Valentine’s Day at all too many colleges and universities.
V-Day is not celebrated with flowers or chocolates. Young men do not pay graceful tribute to young ladies on V-Day. V-Day is celebrated by performances of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a play focusing on, well, a woman’s vagina. There are reflections on sex, rape, and child birth. V-Day started in 1998; today, it has kicked Cupid off more than a thousand college campuses.
Besides performances of The Vagina Monologues, students on individual campuses come up with creative ways to “celebrate” V-Day. At Bucknell University, for example, posters pepper the campus asking, “What Does Your Vagina Smell Like?” You can also purchase an “I Love Vagina” T-shirt or vagina-shaped lollipops.
If a fraternity were doing something like this, they’d be thrown off campus, and rightly so. But the feminist thinking goes that because it is women putting up these signs, it’s an act of empowerment: Women are seizing control of the words previously used by the “patriarchy.”
But is this really liberating? The hyper-sexualization of V-Day directly opposes the romance associated with Valentine’s Day. It replaces the idea of courtship (flowers and candy and maybe even a candlelight dinner) with women chanting the names of what used to be their private parts.
Feminists celebrate the sexual revolution for freeing women to have sex as casually as men, but there is no escaping the reality that women remain more vulnerable to the consequences of sex. Women still become pregnant, are more likely to contract STDs, and are more emotionally vulnerable to casual sex. No clever t-shirt will change that.
The Vagina Monologues is supposed to “demystify” the vagina, but women should consider what they gain from having their bodies stripped of mystery. Reducing sex to its most basic biology destroys any sense of importance or romance to the act or process of seduction. Sure it’s important for women to have a healthy understanding of how their bodies work, but there was a healthy stopping point before we reached the current state with women’s genitalia on display in the public square.
We’d argue that women are the losers: Whether it’s done by men or women, V-Day reduces women to their sex organs. How are women being helped by that?
On many campuses, the money made by Vagina Monologue performances is used for programs that help battered women- a worthy cause to be sure. But if you want to help women who’ve suffered violence, a group of dissidents at Bucknell has the right idea: Instead of selling vagina-shaped lollipops, they’re selling Valentine flowers, the money will go for the same cause as the V-Day funds, and bouquets, unlike V-Day isn’t demeaning women.
We hope students on more campuses will follow the lead of the Bucknell romantics in years to come.