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The V-Day Chronicles

Like flowers and chocolates, performances of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" have become a Valentine's Day tradition--and controversy is not far behind.

11:00 PM, Feb 12, 2004 • By RACHEL DICARLO
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RATHER THAN SPEND 24 HOURS celebrating love and romance tomorrow, some politically correct feminists would prefer we spend Valentine's Day pondering rape, incest, and domestic violence. Inaugurated in 1998, "V-Day"--the term a coalition of feminist groups use to describe their new version of Valentine's Day--is, according to its organizers, "a palpable energy, a fierce catalyst, . . . a global movement to stop violence against women and girls."

This year V-Day has been promoted as a celebration of the "vagina warriors," with over 2,000 V-Day events scheduled, mostly at colleges. The main attraction of all these events is Eve Ensler's one woman play "The Vagina Monologues." The verbally (and often visually) explicit play consists of 15 vignettes in which women portray their vaginas, and talk about such experiences as rape, genital mutilation, the view that men are innately violent, and lesbian statutory rape.

In one scene, a 24-year-old woman gets a 13-year-old girl drunk and has her way with her. Afterward, the girl says, "if it was rape, it was a good rape. I'll never need to rely on a man." Shouting "vagina"--the word is used over 100 times in the play--is touted as "real" sexual liberation, as well as a way to end violence against women. (By the way, the 24-year-old molester is portrayed as rescuing the 13-year-old from male violence.)

IN 2002, the embarrassment of several university officials over the scene prompted the elimination of the reference to "good rape," and the 13-year-old victim became 16. But the sex scene remains and the girl still concludes that she'll "never need to rely on a man."

Of course, it's likely--in fact, probable--that a storm of outrage would have ensued if the idealization of child molestation in the play had been initiated by a male offender. In this case, the "Vagina Monologues" went on to win the prestigious Obie award. Actresses like Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Swoosie Kurtz, Glenn Close, Kimberly Williams, and Whoopi Goldberg have jumped at the chance to perform in the play, and the New York Times has called Ensler "the Messiah heralding the second wave of feminism."

In past years, protests from conservatives about the play's content have not been taken too seriously. In 2000, for example, Robert Swope, a student at Georgetown University, was fired from his student newspaper, the Hoya, for writing a piece protesting the use of tuition dollars for a production of the play at his school. The editors of the Hoya thought that Swope's repeated criticisms of the Georgetown Women's Center, which sponsored the play, "hurt the newspaper's credibility."

This year the play finds itself surrounded by more controversy. Ensler forgoes all profits made by Valentine's Day performances of her play if the proceeds go to agencies that aid women. Thus, in keeping with its contractual agreements with World/Wide Campaign/V-Day C&C Productions, a tiny theater in New Hampshire has earmarked its proceeds for the Portsmouth Feminist Health Center, which provides first trimester abortions.

There are other examples of controversy. For instance, taxpayer money will help fund a production of the "Vagina Monologues" at Amherst-Pelham Regional High School in Massachusetts, the only high school so far to sponsor a production of the play. The decision has drawn national attention. In 1999, the school board of Amherst refused to allow a production of "West Side Story" because of claims that the musical promotes racial stereotypes toward Hispanics. Controversy over the play, of course, only serves as publicity for the "Vagina Monologues." Which means, sadly, that it's likely the play will be with us for many "V-Days" to come.

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.