A high-ranking official from V-Day — a global organization that seeks to combat violence against women and girls by organizing campaigns and artistic performances, including Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” — has come to the defense of the Women’s Empowerment group at Fordham, barbing the historic ruling of administrators in the process.
For the past 10 years, funding for students to stage an on-campus performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” an episodic play that focuses on portrayals of women’s experiences — centered largely on sex, rape, menstruation and birth — has been cut off by Rose Hill’s Office of Student Leadership and Community Development.
Still, members from the Women’s Empowerment group have annually performed the play on campus through the academic channel of the women’s studies department. But students have repeatedly appealed to OSL&CD for funding so that they may perform free from the logistical bounds of an academic department and as a student organization.
And they would seem to have a powerful ally.
“V-Day entirely supports their request of the administration that they be able to run their V-Day events on campus as a Student organization, free of censorship and free of departmental oversight,” Shael Norris, director of college and community campaigns at V-Day, told Fordham Daily.
She added: “[The students] should be empowered by their administration to stand up as leaders and promote the mission of their Jesuit school in proactively engaging in philanthropic work.”
Student Affairs administrators have told students they would be granted funding for the play’s production if they remove “The Little Coochisnorcher That Could” monologue, which portrays a woman recounting how she was served alcohol and then raped as a 16-year-old by a 24-year-old woman.
The leadership of Women’s Empowerment has repeatedly said that such a removal would go against the copyright laws of the script. Norris confirmed that Fordham students had not reached out to V-Day to discuss the possibility of removing the monologue.
“Our student organizers understand that in order to secure the free rights to produce their production with V-Day, they must adhere to our guidelines,” Norris said.
She said the purpose of the production is not to shock or promote underage drinking or nonconsensual sex, but instead it is to curtail shame and create a safe space for women.
“‘Coochisnorcher’ should not incite judgment from the audience about the experiences of [the girl’s] life, but rather understanding — understanding that life is complex, difficult and filled with experiences that shape us and our lives in ways that are not often of our own choosing,” Norris said. “Though the administration may have concerns with this individual piece, we hope that in the context of the full play, the greater message of V-Day is clear.”
Christopher Rodgers, dean of students at Rose Hill, linked the play’s monologue to a recent discussion on campus about the prevelance of sexual assault in a recent Ram article.
“Especially in light of recent attention on college campuses to sexual violence, a work that in any way romanticizes any kind of non-consensual sexual act should give us pause — it certainly gives pause to many [of] us who work with survivors of assault,” he said.
Kara Kratcha, FCRH ’15, one of the play’s directors, said administrators use the argument that the monologue goes against Fordham’s Jesuit Catholic mission. But Kratcha argues that, quite on the contrary, the monologue falls in line with the school’s teachings.
“Providing a safe space for women to explore diverse feminine experiences, particularly shame, trauma, and — ultimately — transformation and empowerment should align with Fordham’s goal of cura personalis,” she said.
In an unprecedented vote, a small committee within Rose Hill’s United Student Government decided last week to support members of Women’s Empowerment as they continue to seek funding from OSL&CD.
The Georgetown Voice, a magazine associated with the Jesuit university, published an editorial Thursday, urging Fordham administrators to grant students funding so they may perform the show as a student organization.
“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,” the editorial said.
Speaking of the article, Kratcha said: “I appreciate the solidarity and would love to hear more voices in support of what we’re doing.”
Women’s Empowerment has already made plans to perform “The Vagina Monologues” this spring with the support of the women’s studies department.