Cupid Vanquished. Part 1

Kiss those chocolates and roses goodbye, ladies. If you are a student at one of the 500-plus colleges that have signed on to the “V-Day 2002College Initiative,” you’re in for a very different kind of Valentine’s Day experience. This February 14, feminists want you to cast off those fusty old romantic trappings and claim Valentine’s Day as a feminist holiday. In that spirit, they have renamed February 14, “V-Day”—and with apologies to our readers, we report that the “V” stands for “vagina, anti-violence, and victory.”

to be continued…

How has a beloved national holiday celebrating love and romantic attraction become a platform for feminist politicking? It all began in 1998 in New York City, with a star-studded performance of Eve Ensler’s play, the Vagina Monologues. For the uninitiated, the Monologues is an off-Broadway ode to a particular portion of the female anatomy. In confrontational and often crude terms, Ensler’s play attempts to reclaim the word vagina as a marker of female empowerment.

Building on the message of Ensler’s play, various feminist groups, including the Ms. Foundation, Planned Parenthood, and the National Organization for Women, have declared every ensuing February 14, “V-Day.” The goal, according to organizers, is to raise awareness about domestic violence worldwide. But the problem here is the medium, not the message.

If you are already an enthusiast of feminist theatrics, and if you are irate that the word vagina is not normally spoken in polite company, then you will likely welcome V-Day celebrations. And you will see plenty of them. The stated goal of the V-Day College Initiative is to encourage “colleges and universities around the world to mount benefit productions of the Vagina Monologues on their campuses on or around V-Day to raise money and awareness to stop violence against women.” But this V-Day is not for the faint of heart.

First of all, it relies heavily on feminist myth-making and false facts to publicize its message. One of the most egregious is Gloria Steinem’s claim, featured in the foreword to the Monologues, that the symbol of the heart really represents women’s nether regions, and that “it was reduced from power to romance by centuries of male dominance.” This likely comes as news to anthropologists and historians, who have found not a scintilla of evidence to support Steinem’s claim.

Facts clearly are not a primary concern for V-Day supporters. “Women should not have to spend their lives surviving or fearing violence against them,” the V-Day website states. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with this sentiment. But many V-Day “facts” are feminist fictions. The Initiative’s literature perpetuates misleading statistics about domestic violence and alarmist sentiments about men’s propensity for abuse. As Christina Hoff Sommers has pointed out, the V-Day website’s claim that “22 to 35% of women who visit emergency rooms are there for injuries related to ongoing abuse” is simply wrong. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that, in fact, one half of 1% of women visit emergency rooms for injuries related to domestic abuse. Many scholarly researchers also have debunked V-Day organizers’ unsubstantiated claim that “somewhere in America a woman is battered every 15 seconds.”

V-Day’s centerpiece, the performance of Ensler’s Monologues, is also suspect. For example, the original version of the Monologues featured a plot line about a “good rape”—a tale of a 13-year old girl who is the victim of statutory rape. How could rape be “good,” you might ask? In the play, it is committed by an older lesbian, and is, therefore, acceptable by feminist standards. One wonders if the reaction would have been so blase’ if the rapist had been a man.

With such questionable lessons to be drawn from Ensler’s play, it is no surprise, as libertarian feminist Wendy McElroy has noted, that V-Day planners are exercising strict control over all Monologues performances. Participants are warned that “in NO event may any college or university mount a production of the Vagina Monologues WITHOUT being part of the College Initiative.” Similarly, authorized participants are warned that they must follow a “new script” prepared for this year’s festivities. “No other version of the play is acceptable for your production. Do not use the book of the play or versions of the script from previous College Initiatives.” Those that do “could be subject to legal proceedings.”

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