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Happy V-Day

A college newspaper is forced to choose between Valentine's Day and Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues."

11:01 PM, Feb 13, 2002 • By BETH HENARY
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TODAY is V-Day. Though most of us will celebrate--or hope to celebrate--February 14 as Valentine's Day with a candlelight dinner in an overcrowded Italian restaurant, in very recent history the date has become the subject of an alternative interpretation. February 14 is the focal date of playwright Eve Ensler's V-Day 2002 College Campaign, an effort to "raise awareness and money to stop violence against women and girls." The campaign encourages groups of college students to perform Ensler's Obie award-winning play "The Vagina Monologues," a verbally and at times visually explicit take on female sexuality. One school, however, seems open only to the Ensler version of February 14.

Trying to counter "The Vagina Monologues'" woman-centered V-Day, SheThinks.org, the student division of the Independent Women's Forum, mounted a "Free Cupid" ad campaign. Designed to reclaim Valentine's Day, traditionally understood, the ad features a shackled Cupid trudging, distressed, past a theater showing the play.

"Wouldn't you prefer to restore mutual respect and a dash of romance to your school on Valentine's Day?" the ad asks. It calls the feminist version of V-Day "a time to promote female victimology and tedious performances of the Vagina Monologues."

Ten of the 11 campus newspapers to which Shethinks.org submitted the ad--including papers at Harvard, UCLA, and Smith College--ran it with no objections. The one exception was Penn State University, whose Daily Collegian offered a litany of excuses, ranging from phony copyright concerns to the ad's inflammatory nature to the paper's own reluctance to run something that might be controversial.

In response to the Collegian's refusal to publish the ad, which the IWF had paid for in advance, the forum issued a press release--headlined "Is Cupid Banned on Campus?"--questioning the paper's rejection as a statement against romance. A source at the IWF said yesterday that just hours after the press release was sent out, Collegian business manager Amy Hibbard called the Forum to say that the ad had been submitted to an approval committee for reconsideration.

IWF has had trouble in the past with student papers rejecting its anti-radical feminist advertisements. Last spring, the Columbia University daily turned down an ad entitled "The Ten Most Common Feminist Myths," which provided scholarly evidence against inflated rape occurrence statistics and the theory that gender is a social construction.

As it now stands, the Daily Collegian is set to run the "Free Cupid" ad on Valentine's Day. Funny how the IWF had to go to so much trouble to praise the way most people like spending V-Day.

Beth Henary is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.