Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Vaginas in the Cross Hairs

The Journal News in Westchester County, New York, reported today that administrators at John Jay High School in Cross River suspended Hannah Levinson, Megan Reback and Elan Stahl after they said the word ‘vagina’ during a reading of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at the school. [Cross River students, suspended for saying "vagina" at open mic, create media and community buzz] Administrators objected to the monologue “My Short Skirt” and had asked the students to refrain from reading the stanza “My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women’s army. I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina’s country.” The students ignored the request and were each given a one-day suspension.

Principal Rich Leprine defended the administration’s decision to suspend the students and said in a statement that the challenge is to “balance the rights of student speakers and the sensitivities of the community.” What exactly constitutes community sensibilities? Americans as a whole remain completely uncomfortable with the notion of open and honest conversations about sexuality. The word ‘vagina’ poses as much threat to the so-called sensitivities of the community as do articles about prostitution rings in the suburbs or blow jobs in the Oval Office. So what is all of this fuss really about? These three young women chose to discuss female sexuality in an honest and open way in the same vein that Ensler does in her collection of monologues. It just so happens that their principal, who is a man, objected to the word ‘vagina’ and decided to impose the suspensions. Draw your own conclusions… but I laud these young women for challenging a society that remains irrationally insecure about its own expressions of sexuality. They took a stand in support of their own bodies and sexuality at great personal risk. They are true vagina warriors!

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