Opposition on Catholic College Campuses
Since 2003, the Cardinal Newman Society, a fringe group dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity in Catholic higher education, has campaigned against the V-Day benefit productions of “The Vagina Monologues” at Catholic Colleges and Universities in the U.S.. In 2005, Catholic colleges accounted for approximately 40 of the over 1100 colleges and communities that successfully staged V-Day benefit productions of “The Vagina Monologues” in the U.S. and around the world.
Each year, the Cardinal Newman Society tracks V-Day events taking place on Catholic colleges via the V-Day website and then launches a campaign asking its followers to email College Presidents and alumni requesting them to shut down the benefit threatening to withhold their financial support to that college or university until they do so. This results in CNS spreading misinformation about V-Day and the intent of “The Vagina Monologues” while ultimately attempting to censor the play as well as student’s voices.
In most of these cases, CNS’s attempts to ban the productions creates a healthy public and media debate within the community about free speech, the problem of violence against women and the need to address it. This also raises questions about the true goals of CNS, which attempts to stop students from doing philanthropic work and pressures administrators and their alumni toward censorship. In some cases these goals have been temporarily realized, impacting college students who have been forced to find off-campus venues for their benefits, college presidents who have had weigh freedom of speech and academic expression against the bullying of a fringe group and threats of financial withholdings. In one case, the student organizer was threatened with expulsion if she continued with efforts to end violence against women and girls.
In addition to the Cardinal Newman Society, V-Day has faced opposition from another Catholic organization – the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) According to their website the organization was formed in 1973 to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and property. In 2005, TFP launched an anti-V-Day campaign on Catholic campuses calling it “another St. Valentine’s Day ‘Massacre.’ “
Read our 2003 recap on Cardinal Newman Society’s efforts:
V-Day Statement In Response to the Cardinal Newman Society
Read our 2004 recap on CNS efforts:
Cardinal Newman Society Continues Its Efforts to Stop V-Day Activists
Due to the continued and increased activity by these groups and the many emails of support we’ve received, V-Day feels it is important to update supporters and organizers and provide this background on the situation. It is important to note that neither group has reached out to V-Day to voice their concerns or to discuss how we might work together to end violence against women and girls—an issue we think would be of great concern to the church considering the recently reported epidemic violence within the church itself. While CNS and TFP have publicly and aggressively agitated against V-Day organizers on Catholic campuses and in the media, V-Day has chosen to simply provide you with this information.
In its campaigns, CNS specifically offers misinformation about “The Vagina Monologues.” V-Day would like to make two key points of clarification:
MISINFORMATION: CNS describes "The Vagina Monologues" as a "vulgar play", "complete with a favorable reminiscence about a lesbian seduction of a 16-year-old girl" and "explicit discussions of sexuality and sexual encounters including lesbian activity and masturbation."
REALITY: The monologue referred to reflects the real-life experience of a real woman who was interviewed by Eve Ensler. The monologue accurately reports the woman's experience.
The pieces in "The Vagina Monologues" are all reflections of real women's experiences. Some of the stories are not politically correct, but they are all real. It is important to allow all of the voices of women to be heard, regardless of how we personally feel about their experiences, as violence against women happens everywhere affecting one in three women worldwide.
"The Vagina Monologues" has been successful as a play in part because it inspires reflection and thought among audience members, and dialogue among people who have seen the play. The Vagina Monologues has proven vastly liberating because it gives voice to experiences and feelings not previously exposed in public, and reflects how shame and self-deprecating thoughts of women’s bodies has kept women separate from power and pleasure. The overwhelming response to the play was mobilized by grassroots organizations who recognize how negative attitudes towards women’s bodies contribute to violence perpetrated against women by men and by themselves.
Violence against women happens everywhere affecting one in three women worldwide. V-Day envisions a world where women live safely and freely. Each year V-Day continues to grow and inspire women and men throughout the world to help create V-World, a place where women and girls are free from violence. V-Day will continue this mission until the violence stops.
MISINFORMATION: "The play is a collection of monologues by women describing their personal stories, replete with vulgarity, frequent use of 'vagina' to represent women and femininity.
REALITY: The word ‘vagina’ is indeed used frequently in the play – to break the silence and the censorship of a word that does indeed represent women both physical and metaphysically as a feminine being. If you can't say it, then you can't own it. If you can't own it, then you can't protect it. If it's violated, you can't protest or complain.
In a major shift "The Vagina Monologues" and V-Day empowers women and men to hear and speak openly about sexual violence. Once women have had an opportunity to discuss experiences of violence in a venue of safety and security, they learn they are no longer alone with their pain.
NOTE: It is always essential to read or see a play before commenting on its content. It is important to note that performances of "The Vagina Monologues" do not "show" anything in the literal sense - it is a fact-based series of monologues, spoken or read by the performers.
Background on V-Day and the College campaign: V-Day is a global campaign that envisions and is working to create a world in which violence against women and girls no longer exists. V-Day hopes that the devastating and true stories that are the foundation of "The Vagina Monologues" will inspire people who see productions of the play to help V-Day in its efforts to stop all violence against women and girls.
Through the V-Day College Campaign, which launched in 1999, thousands of student organizers have raised funds for local groups on their campuses and within their communities. In 2005, students at over 700 colleges and universities staged V-Day benefits of “The Vagina Monologues” to raise funds and awareness. The events take place on-campus and are primarily student-run, student-acted and student-directed.
To date, V-Day has raised over $30 million dollars for local community groups who do anti-violence work on the ground every day. Along the way, millions of people have been empowered and educated and have become active in the fight to end violence against women and girls.