The sheer amount of space devoted to College junior Simcha Katsnelson’s comments in yesterday’s article about The Vagina Monologues undermined the larger, loftier and more important goal: that over $43,000 was raised to combat rape, sexual assault and violence against women worldwide. The Daily Pennsylvanian has done students a disservice by giving an undue amount of airtime to criticism instead of devoting valuable print space to the extraordinary efforts of the entire Vagina Monologues Executive Board and the record-setting cast of over 60 women.
Having an audience chanting the word “cunt” does not make the word laughable. The monologue explains exactly why that word is not laughable — because it contains letters that make up so many other wonderful, dynamic, enthusiastic, dark, angry, scintillating other words. The entire board, cast, and crew take each and every monologue very seriously – even those that elicit laughter. The use of the vagina suit may indeed bring a small amount of shock value but in the greater service of beginning a discussion — about their vaginas and perhaps about a host of other issues. Why the secrecy? It’s not the Bermuda Triangle and after all, half of Penn’s student body has one.
Selling “puss pops” and other articles does not make the vagina a commodity — that is not the goal of The Vagina Monologues. What it does is bring the word and the body part out into the open — to be discussed, shared and demystified. I am a graduate student, a proud cast member and also part of Penn’s LGBTQ community — for me, saying cunt does not make it laughable at all. Rather, it takes the sting out of the word and reclaims it, makes it something new and powerful instead of something derogatory to be cast upon me.
I would urge Katsnelson and others to visit our cast and crew every Sunday from 2 – 4 pm where over the past four months we have learned about violence against women, about sexual abuse and recovery, about rape and the criminal reporting system and where we have all shared the joys, sorrows, ups and downs of being women. In these sessions, she might learn that the vagina is a multi-faceted, multi-layered, diverse and ever changing organ that responds in different ways to different stimuli — similar to Penn’s student body. The genius and success of the Vagina Monologues is to do the very same thing, to offer the audience a diverse array of situations where they may connect, disarm, change, and respond to various stimuli – laughter, sadness, irony, or anger. I call my vagina a cunt, you, call it a va-jay jay and on and on. Ultimately, the Vagina Monologues seeks to show us that all vaginas are valuable, deserve inclusion, admiration and acknowledgment. In the words of one monologue: my vagina, my vagina: Me.
Chelsea Switzer is a candidate for a Masters of Bioethics. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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