In previous posts, this blog considered the question of academic freedom and Catholic character at Notre Dame. I argued that a University can place restrictions on the events sponsored on campus without a significant loss of academic freedom. But, that a university should not restrict academic inquiry. Now I will turn to the question of the annual “V-Day” celebration which features a student production of Eve Ensler’s, The Vagina Monologues.
First, it must be noted that “V-day” is indeed an event. It is a world-wide celebration of the ideas and values presented by The Vagina Monologues. It is a rally promoting the brand of feminism proposed by Eve Ensler and her sponsors (which include Planned Parenthood and Feminist.com). “V-days” around the country have included celebrities leading throngs of women in chanting “cunt” as sort of a rallying cry. But, ultimately the event centers around the play. I do not know how this celebration has manifested itself at Notre Dame, but the former is certainly and intentionally linked to “V-day” events around the world, and through its sponsorship, so is the latter. The event does not seem to be characterized by academic inquiry or scholarly discussion of women’s issues. It is not a conference or a symposium. It is a celebration. As such, if indeed The Vagina Monologues runs contrary to ND’s Catholic character then the University is justified in curtailing it.
By restricting the event, the University is not censoring or eliminating academic inquiry into the ideas surrounding the play. Students are free to read it. Professors are free to assign it as required reading. Students may gather in informal groups to study and discuss its content. The Observer reports St. Mary’s students have gathered in dorm lounges for unofficial performances of the play. These gatherings, as long as they are respectful of other dorm residents, should be allowed. The University could sponsor a conference (as long as the Catholic position were represented) to address the issues raised by the play. There are numerous avenues to inquire after The Vagina Monologues without sponsoring a “V-day” event. If the faculty and students who promote “V-day” were only interested in academic inquiry, then why are they not satisfied with Father Jenkins’ allowing the play to be performed in a classroom setting? It is because they want to celebrate it.
I recently heard a recording of The Vagina Monologues read by the author. Some of its content is good, but some of it is very problematic and contrary to the teachings of the Church. I will save that discussion for part four of this series.