Three events this week continued the discussion of issues of violence against women raised by last weekend's performance of "The Vagina Monologues." The organizers of "Monologues" sponsored screenings of two different films as a follow-up to the play, while the College Republicans brought a speaker to campus to offer a contrary perspective.
"The Vagina Monologues," written by Eve Ensler, is a play that was performed by 40 Bowdoin women as part of an effort to end violence against women. Along with the two films, "The Vagina Monologues" is part of the V-Day movement, "a global movement to stop violence against women and girls," according to the V-Day web site.
"The work that V-Day does continues throughout the year," said Gwenn Hollingworth '06, a co-director of the play. "On Monday, we showed the documentary 'Until the Violence Stops', which would allow those people who had been interested by the show to learn about the work we do throughout the year."
"It also helped people to better understand the V-Day movement, and to understand that it is not only a performance of 'The Vagina Monologues,' but a continued effort to keep dialogue about sexual violence flowing," she said.
On Tuesday, Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence led a discussion of a film about the Japanese "comfort women" of World War II. The comfort women were women from Asian countries who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military. The film was of the taped proceedings of a tribunal, held in Tokyo, which indicted the Japanese military and government, including Emperor Hirohito, for crimes against humanity.
Comfort women were V-Day's "Global Spotlight" for the year, and a monologue depicting the treatment of these women was featured in the play. According to the V-Day website, the organization's goal is to "support these women and their fight for an official apology and compensation from the Japanese government."
Laurence tied the film's message to more current events.
"As much as we'd like to think that we've made moral progress, it's not clear that we have. Things like that are still happening today," Laurence said.
"There's less support for comfort women now than there's been in a decade. The only real kind of hope is individual [non-Japanese] governments doing things for their own victims," he said.
Also on Monday, the Bowdoin College Republicans played host to Monique Stuart, program officer for the Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute. Stuart gave a lecture called "P-Day vs. V-Day: Using Absurdity to Expose the Absurd," that criticized "The Vagina Monologues" as profane, pornographic, and ineffective at conveying its message of combating violence against women.
"Go tell women to be sluts, that's great," Stuart said. "There are so many ways to help and do things, and this play is not it. Part of the reason it's so appealing is the cause. I think there are better ways to go about it. There are so many better ways than chanting the c-word. There are people dying in wars, and you people are worried about what your vagina would wear?" Stuart asked.
Alex Krippner '06 said that she wished more people had attended Stuart's lecture to encourage discussion.
"I dislike the fact that more people aren't willing to examine various viewpoints. I think that often, the extremes of each viewpoint too quickly dismiss the other side, and those are the voices that we mostly hear on campus. I wish it were more of a dialogue," she said.
Krippner said that while she disagreed with the way Stuart argued her point, the argument had some validity.
"The idea of a lecture itself is valid because I think that on campus, the purpose of 'The Vagina Monologues' is sometimes questionable," Krippner said. "If it is to combat violence against women, why does it seem to focus on female anatomy, and how does that specifically combat violence against women?"
"But I didn't like her combative attitude. The ways she went about counteracting 'The Vagina Monologues' were very immature," she said.
Madeline Sullivan '09, a performer in the play, also questioned the effectiveness of the play at conveying its message.
"I think it's definitely a good way to publicize the message and start the conversation, but I don't know how effective it is in terms of actually stopping [violence against women]," she said. "Maybe it does in some ways because it starts you thinking about it and really bringing the women's perspective up front and being more open and up front about sexuality."
"I think a lot of what it does is just a lot of bonding between women, just talking about it and having a good time. It's a show that's for women, I feel like, more than it is for men," Sullivan said.
"It's a very personal kind of play that brings women together on a level that otherwise wouldn't occur. Girls don't usually sit around on pillows talking about the first time they got their periods," she said.