Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Vagina Dialogues

Vagina Monologues (East Greenwich, RI)
Originally uploaded by NetParrot.

Should a Catholic college be compelled to host Eve Ensler's puerile "The Vagina Monologues"? Providence College president, the Reverend Brian J. Shanley, says no. Some student activists say "yes".

What this boils down to is the right for a college administrator to determine what is and is not appropriate on their own campus. Providence College is not just a Catholic college, it is the only college in America run by Dominican friars. As such, a normal person would understand that Catholic mores and values are the rule of the day.

Reverend Shanley addressed the issue here on the Providence College website, saying: "prohibiting a theatrical production of The Vagina Monologues does not prohibit free inquiry about the play". Furthermore, the Reverend goes on to note that Providence College is not obligated to stage plays whose ideology and imagery may run contrary to the values of their institution. To a normal person, this still sounds sensible. It's why we would not expect Brown University to stage passion plays or a Pat Boone film festival if they didn't want to.

A normal person, however, is not an easily outraged college student. "The Vagina Monologues" can be found all over New England (the photo above is from East Greenwich, RI), so why is pressure being brought to bear to show it at PC?

The strawman argument being presented, of course, is censorship. What self-righteous college students forget is that the First Amendment protects the right of free speech from the government, not from private institutions. Nevertheless, the outrage (such as it is) over the school's decisions is decrying "censorship" and "curtailing free speech". No, and no. The school and even the Catholic Church itself have not prevented the publication of the play, or its performance in venues that want to show it. Deep down, people actually know this, but what the hell: a protest is a protest.

As the Providence Journal (registration required) reports: "holding red balloons and such signs as 'Mary Had A Vagina,' more than 120 students staged a rally yesterday against the decision of Providence College's president, the Rev. Brian J. Shanley, to ban the play 'The Vagina Monologues' from the Catholic campus."

Get it? Mary had a vagina? What stunningly sophisticated protest. Now that's bound to get them to change their minds. I can almost see the friars huddling together, consulting their Bibles and concluding, after spirited theological debate that yes, Mary did have a vagina, and therefore, their objections to staging the play are invalid after all.


Anonymous said...

Consider this: Rev. Brian J. Shanley might have banned the Vagina Monologues because the play may make the elderly friars who live at PC uncomfortable. PC is their home.

You are right, a private institution does not have to stage the Vagina Monologues.

Rev. Brian J. Shanley is a great guy. I've known him for years. If you know him, you have to like him. He is brilliant, funny, friendly.

I hear he is a good golfer, too.

really old pal said...

Rev. Brian J. Shanley does a great job at Providence College.