Vaginas may sing, swing, cry and laugh no longer at Saint Louis University this February.
For the last four years, Una, SLU’s student feminist organization, has staged productions of The Vagina Monologues at on campus venues.
When Una asked Provost Joe Weixlmann, Ph.D., for his continued approval to produce V-Day 2007 (the “V” stands for valentine, vagina and victory) at SLU, he said he could not sponsor the play, and “it is my understanding that the play will not have an on-campus sponsor this year.”
Weixlmann suggested that Una choose an alternate script and offered to provide funding for the production rights to another play that deals with the same subject matter as The Vagina Monologues. Weixlmann said other valuable plays that pertain to violence toward women offer a “more lively” means of bringing forth awareness and discussion to campus. “My personal hope was to continue the discussion, but do it in an ever-richening context, not to have the same discussion over and over again,” said Weixlmann.
Eve Ensler’s award winning play portrays the real life experiences of more than 200 women, and the script about their vaginas and how they relate to the pertinent issues of sex, rape, violence and birth.
The Monologues have been the foundation of the V-Day movement. Performances have raised and donated more than $30 million for charitable anti-violence against women organizations.
“The Monologues serves as a catalyst to raise awareness about violence against women through the use of real life personal accounts,” said student-elected V-Day 2007 Director Rachel Buckler.
The school of social work has sponsored the event for the past two years. Sue Tebb, Ph.D., director of the school of social work, said that this year, Una has “not officially asked us to sponsor it.”
“I think it has been very valuable, but I agree with the Provost, that it doesn’t have to be year after year,” said Tebb. “Now may be a good time to take a rest and pick it up down the road.”
Tebb said the academic sponsor fields letters from the public about the production, and represents the University at all performances. She said the sponsor receives both positive and negative responses from the public about the controversial play being performed at a Jesuit university.
Weixlmann was the first sponsor of the performance at SLU, and he received about 300 letters and calls from the public about the performance.
“There’s not a group across the nation that doesn’t get it [hate mail],” said Tebb. “. A lot of good letters from parents of performers, people saying their awareness [of violence toward women] was raised. And that’s the goal.”
In an e-mail to Buckler and Sarah Rush, the V-Day producer, Weixlmann wrote: “Other plays might also have been considered. I am told that this offer was refused. I have no problem with that decision, but that does not mean that, alternatively, Vagina Monologues should go on once more.”
“The value that I see most in the production is to have an open, constructive discussion of what women have to go through everyday-it [The Monologues] forces us to come to some sort of solution even though it may not always be politically correct,” said Buckler.
As a part of the V-Day college campaign, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, and Webster University will produce student-run performances of play.
Recently, a particularly controversial vignette in The Monologues in which a woman recalls memories of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood as well as a lesbian encounter with an older woman has been removed from the script. Ensler has issued warnings that using the line “If it was a rape, it was a good rape” in performances may lead to legal action as it has been criticized for portraying statutory rape in a positive way.
“If we can’t hold it on campus, then [we’ll do it} off campus. It would require us to raise more money,” said Buckler. The money will be donated to local organizations like Karen Catholic Worker House and the Women’s Safe House.
“If producing The Vagina Monologues is about really understanding the issues of violence toward women, I would hope that one would want to have different perspectives,” said Weixlmann. “Its like, c’mon, do something else.”