This month, Fordham University’s Women’s Empowerment Club was prevented by school officials from performing The Vagina Monologues, a feminist play known for its forthright commentary on female sexuality. Fordham’s decision to stop the play from being performed by a student group reflects poorly on the Jesuit university and brings to light some of the positive ways Georgetown stands for women’s rights.
The Fordham Office of Student Leadership and Community Development refused to allow the Monologues to be performed by a student group, forcing Women’s Empowerment to put on the show with the help of the Women’s Studies academic department. Placing the performance under an academic department, however, has made putting on the show more difficult.
Fordham should permit Women’s Empowerment to perform the show as a student group, such as how the Georgetown Women’s Center and “Take Back the Night” collaborate to put on the production at Georgetown each year. Nesting the performance under an academic department removes the Monologues’ special ability to empower women by allowing them to coordinate and perform their own version of the play.
Jesuit values of reflectiveness and understanding others demand that universities remain open to a diversity of perspectives, especially those of empowerment, equality, and diversity—ideals the Monologues espouse.
Although Fordham’s Student House Committee, a student representative body formed last year to help students appeal OSLCD’s decisions, has voted against the decision to stop the Monologues performance, Fordham has no obligation to follow its decision.The OSLCD has said that one monologue in particular prevents the entire play from being performed: “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could,” which tells of a 16 year-old’s first lesbian experience with a 23 year-old who date rapes her. The OSLCD has told Women’s Empowerment that they can perform the Monologues if this one monologue in particular is taken out.
Not only is removing a single monologue against copyright rules, removing this monologue from the performance because of the difficult subject matter it depicts undermines the purpose of the Monologues as a whole. The play’s intention is to face reality and give women a chance to move beyond trauma and take on the future for themselves.
Fordham ought to return control of this play to the hands of the students To do otherwise disrespects the very notion of academic and creative freedom that makes Jesuit universities otherwise centers for critical thinking In continuing to support the annual performance of The Vagina Monologues in its entirety, Georgetown University stands on the side of the true spirit of Jesuit values. The student performance of the play here at Georgetown is an important part of the V-Day feminist celebration and not only removes stigmas against female sexuality but empowers the women who put on the show.