Criticism distorts, misses point
But there were no constructive ideas to be found. The column was a clear example of someone with an axe to grind picking a performance into shreds and finding the safest parts to insult. Don’t write about the monologues that had to do with rape or violence, because no one will be on your side. Talk about lesbianism among homeless women, or why women shouldn’t complain about tampons (even though you’ve never worn one, I presume), or assert that men don’t really oppress women, or say that women should not fight for their rights and positions of power in a decidedly patriarchal society. Then, through rhetoric and distortion, you might convince people, especially those who didn’t see the show, to agree with you.
I wasn’t even going to dignify this tactic with a response, but I felt I owed it to the 50 plus extraordinary women who bared a piece of themselves to more than 700 members of the College community last weekend. Many of these women overcame painful emotional barriers to perform, so that men might begin to understand what we go through and other women might not feel so alone. These women were brave enough to expose themselves to criticism and to write a piece which mischaracterizes what they did is unfair to them and to anyone who has the misfortune to read that piece.
The groups that sponsored this event-the Peer Advocates, Student Health Educators and Amherst Feminist Alliance-were not under the false impression that they were funding a “legitimate piece of theater.” On the contrary, the reason that the cast members carried scripts and sat in the audience is that The Vagina Monologues is comprised entirely of testimonials offered by real women, without a fictitious piece in the bunch. These monologues were offered not as ideals to which we should aspire but as truthful experiences, both positive and negative. The point of the show was not to advocate that all 16-year-old women should go out and have sex with 24-year-old women, but to tell the audience that one 16-year-old woman did, just as another woman had a great sexual experience with a man named Bob, just as other women were raped or abused. If there was any confusion on this point, it should have been cleared up during the show’s introduction, when the audience was told specifically that they were not seeing theater, but a collection of authentic experiences. I suppose that, if you weren’t paying attention, you could have missed that.
V-Day is a movement which advocates women restoring ownership over their bodies, reclaiming powerful slots in society and refusing to allow violence and fear to run their lives. One in three women on this planet will be raped, assaulted or abused in her lifetime and the purpose of V-Day and the Vagina Monologues is to let women know that we are with them and that we will not yield until the violence stops. Perhaps it’s true that the great and intelligent people who came to and participated in last week’s performances do subscribe to a fantasy. We believe in the fantastic notion that, one day, battery will not be the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44, that women will be able to walk down the street at night without our minds screaming “rape” and that men and women will be able to share all parts of society, from running countries to running households. Last weekend, the women of Amherst raised more than $2,000 to help survivors of domestic abuse get back on their feet. We performed to almost half of this campus, to audiences that were almost half men. Maybe, just possibly, our movement is more than a fantasy, after all.
Kate Stayman-London ’05
Lighten up on MonologuesFemale sexuality is an issue that is not generally treated in an open manner. American society as a whole instructs women to be reserved about sex and about their bodies. They are faced with a double standard of sexuality that pervades even the most enlightened social environments.
Lighten up on Monologues
“The Vagina Monologues” puts female sexuality in a different, more open context. It provides women with a forum for talking about such taboo subjects as menstruation and masturbation, as well as for raising awareness about the rampant sexual abuse and subjugation that women face throughout the world.
Therefore, I disagree with Andrew Moin, who, in his Feb. 20, 2002 column “Monologues miss the mark on feminism,” denigrated the performance as “a work of hatred and sexism masquerading as a bona-fide piece of theater.” The rhetoric may have been reactionary at points, but this does not detract from the fundamental purpose of the play. If anything, it makes it more effective.
Moin also went so far as to call the play “lowbrow,” expressing shock that the audience could find some of the skits so uproarious. Perhaps he’s taking life a little too seriously-sexual humor, while crude, is still really funny. You can’t deny that.
William Greene ’05
Column rings true for manyI can’t remember what my parents and I were fighting about when I came out to them. I’m sure it was something trivial. I have no idea what prompted me to end this particular fight with the words, “And another thing, I’m gay.” I remember my mother’s face during the endless silence that followed. I remember running out of the house, slamming the door behind me and driving away.
Column rings true for many
My parents and I haven’t talked about my coming out since. This has always been strange for me. I know that my parents want to know more. They want to know who I kiss goodnight and who I wake up with. Or, more realistically, who I would like to kiss goodnight and wake up with (this is Amherst, after all). On the simplest level, they want to know if this person is male or female. And, I want to tell them. But they don’t ask, and I don’t tell. Maybe they do know, maybe they can tell from the way my voice or my eyes soften when I say her name. Parents have a way of seeing those things.
I love my parents and they love me. That’s not a question in my mind. While they may not fully understand my sexuality, they accept it and me without question. They realize that I didn’t “turn gay” to upset them or rebel against them. They know that my being gay is nobody’s fault; it’s not something that should carry the stigma of blame. In this respect, my parents have given me all the support I could ask for.
Being gay is not a conscious decision. I do not fall in love with other women on a physical and emotional level because I have something to prove to society. I am an activist, but my activism is an effect, not a cause. Being gay is not a choice; accepting myself as gay, however, is. Coming to terms with my sexuality, with an innate part of myself that sets me apart from the vast majority of other human beings, is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and continue to do every day. People ask me if I like being a lesbian; I tell them that I’m happy I’ve made peace with myself.
Now, I need the world to make peace with me. I don’t think straight people are my enemy. I just think they’re straight. The only people I despise without question are those that despise me without question. These people are ignorant. In last week’s issue, Gautam Bhan summed up my feelings perfectly in his column “A gay man’s accusation.” I echo the sentiments of much of Amherst’s gay community when I say: Thank you Guatam, for putting yourself on the line and saying what needed to be heard.
Rebecca Binder ’02
Shopping around could be made much easierThe column on add/drop period, “Shopping period more than we bargained for,” (Feb. 13) did not mention one cause of student frustration: the glut of classes taught during the same period. Over 23 percent of all classes the College offers start at either 1:00 or 2:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So many classes taking place simultaneously not only limits students’ scheduling possibilities, but also strains the College’s classroom space.
Shopping around could be made much easier
Scheduling classes more evenly would make adding classes during add/drop easier and allow students a better opportunity to take more of their first choice classes. Each academic department would be allotted a fair ratio of morning and afternoon class periods, which it could divide among its faculty through lottery, seniority or some other method. Students would also have to sacrifice some convenience too, with more classes moved to mornings and Fridays. Yet, with more balanced class scheduling students could hopefully make empowered choices more quickly during add/drop, ameliorating both students and faculty’s stated concerns
Ari Kahn ’03