Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Here We Go Again With The Vagina Monologues

It's mid-winter, which means it's time for another story about the Vagina Monologues. I think I was able to get through 2006 without devoting a post to it, but 2005 had a good one.

This year's story, from New York state, involves three girls who were told in advance not to use the word "vagina" when quoting from the Vagina Monologues at a high school event sponsored by a literary magazine. They used the word, got suspended, and all hell broke loose.

Yes, it's just a word. Let's see what I had to say about it back in 2005, shall we?

Should girls at school really be wearing "I heart my vagina" t-shirts or pins? If so, what would truly be wrong with boys wearing "I heart your vagina, too" t-shirts? The girls are not being "empowered", they're objectifying themselves--something they'll then complain about.


I can't talk about your vagina or my penis in school without possibly losing my job, losing my teaching credential, and facing a sexual harassment claim. Why should the girls get away with it? Either a word is acceptable for everyone to say, or it's not. In this regard I'm reminded of the word "nigger"--either it's ok for all of us to say, or it's ok for none of us to say. We can't have dividing lines about who gets to use which words.

Some things are not appropriate for public discussion, and this is one of them. As I said before:

I'm not convinced that the vagina pins and shirts are appropriate for wear in public, much less at school. Notice I said appropriate, not legal. And given sexual harassment laws, which often criminalize the slightest language, word, or contact, isn't a pin glorifying your vagina crossing the line? I think that schools could reasonably assume that shirts/pins which discuss sex organs would be disruptive--but more than that, they contribute to incivility... Is it too much to ask that we try to create a reasonably civil atmosphere at our public schools?


The fact that the girls' parents are "supporting" them just shows how far we've gone from a civic spirit to a selfish one. To paraphrase, Have you no decency, ma'am?

Update, 3/14/07: The principal has his say. Then he's overruled. Pathetic.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm a Democrat and I agree. Imagine that :P

Anonymous said...

Do you think me wearing a shirt emblazoned with "I (heart) my large American penis!" would be acceptable? Besides the obvious exaggeration, of course.

skh

Darren said...

Democrat anonymous: I'd like to think that civility and decorum are not limited by party affiliation or political bent.

Second anonymous: exaggeration? You're not American?

rightwingprof said...

I wish somebody would explain to me how watching a play of first a young underage girl being molested, then conversations with one's naughty bits empowers anyone.

Darren said...

Rightwingprof: If you don't know, we're not going to tell you! =)

Mike said...

Do you recall, I believe it was a few years back now, the uproar about the teacher who used the word "niggardly" (it means "stingy") in class? There was an incredible national uproar, and I remember vividly watching a black female "activist" of one sort or another on a talk show demanding the firing of the teacher for using the word. Yes, she admitted, the word did not have anything to do with the common racial slur, but because it sounded like it, the teacher should be fired anyway for some sort of insensitivity, lack of diversity, etc. ad nauseum. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, but I doubt the teacher ever used that perfectly worthy word again.

We do indeed live in an atmosphere where even looking at someone the wrong way can result in a sexual harassment charge. I know of a colleague who was charged with sexual harassment because a young lady once felt "uncomfortable" around him. No comments, touching, even leering, she just, for reasons she could not define, put into words, or even represent through charades, felt uncomfortable. Because the school authorities had no idea how to categorize such a situation, it defaulted to sexual harassment. Fortunately, he was exonerated when cooler heads realized that it was a charge that had less than no substance, but once such a charge has been made, particularly against a male teacher, it never dies. Some percentage of the community will always believe that the teacher did something wrong even if they are completely exonerated. And because of privacy concerns, the public will never know the whole story.

Vaginas on t-shirts? On pins? Sorry. If a mere look can justify the potential destruction of a teacher's reputation and means of making a living, we've got to agree that we can't have it both ways.
Actual sexual harassment can't be condoned, but a girl wearing a "I love my vagina" logo has guaranteed that she will be the object of less than high-minded attention.

Darren said...

Yes, I remember the "niggardly" story very well, and you relate it as I recall it.

And I agree with everything else you wrote.

Scott McCall said...

everything is just becoming too politicaly correct

F*** POLITICS!!!!

(ironic...considering some of the people i work for)

Tyler said...

A large part of this may be the fact that I am myself a student, but I think it's ridiculous that the school assumes the title of "gaurdian" as soon as I step on campus, allowing them to then do as they please regarding restriction of my personal freedoms.

"I can't talk about your vagina or my penis in school without possibly losing my job, losing my teaching credential, and facing a sexual harassment claim. Why should the girls get away with it?"

The answer to this question is a fundamental part of the first amendment. The first amendment doesn't apply to restaurants, movie theaters, or any private businesses. They're allowed to set their own policies about the requirements to gain access to their services (no shirt, no shoes, no service, for example.) The same applies for your employer, Rio Americano. You have agreed to abide by their rules in order to reamain their employee and to receive a paycheck. If you don't like it, you can quit. And by the same token, if you violate their rules, they can legally fire you. But the fundamental difference between this and the girl wearing the vagina shirt is that public education in California is compulsory. She had no choice whether or not to attend school. This presents us with a completely different situation. In my opinion, Rio has no right to tell me not to wear a shirt with the devil on it, a shirt with a spear on it, or, more recently, a shirt that says "Give a Shi(^r)t"

I shouldn't be required to abide by school rules regarding speech restriction in order to gain access to their service (an education) if I'm required by law to gain access to that service. Nobody requires you to go see a movie at Century Theaters, so if you want the right to do that, you forfeit your right to wear the shirts they tell you you can't. But somebody (the state of California) is telling me that I must go to school. I see the school's attempt to limit my free speech (or that of the girl with the "vagina" shirt) as no different than the government coming into my own home and seizing my shirt that they deem "inappropriate." The school is part of the state govenrment, and according to the fourth and fourteenth amendments to the federal constitution, they're not allowed to confiscate my property without a search warrant or my consent. Mr. Hollingsworth has neither, and yet he is allowed to take away my property. I think the same thing goes for cell phones. Unless they present a "clear and present danger," (Schenk v. US, USSC, 1919) cell phones are a form of protected speech under the first amendment, and the school has no right to confiscate them from me. If Mr. Hollingsworth or Mr. Judge ever tries to take away my cell phone and I'm in the right mood, I'll definitely make this argument to them. I can't wait 'til I'm on the Supreme Court and get to change this - honestly.

Darren said...

Tyler, it's very interesting that you think that you have 1st Amendment rights that I don't have. I think you read too much of what you want into what is. And your last sentence reeks of judicial activism, something I find abhorrent.

Tyler said...

I can see what you mean about judicial activism. But to me that would be sitting on the Supreme Court with a political agenda and not actually listening to the judicial issues. I find it appaling that we don't have a court that is returning almost 100% unanimous decisions. If they're all looking at the same constitution and the smae arguments, they should agree so much more often. What I meant was that, from my limited (though above average) knowledge of the constitution, my interpretation is that public schools do not have the right to confiscate my clothing without my consent. If you have an argument against that, I'm curious...

And if you think I'm suggesting I have first amendment rights you don't have, you misseed the whole point of what I was saying.

Darren said...

Tyler, you want to sit on the Court and listen to the judicial issues--and then rule the way you think right now. Activism.

When was this Golden Age of 100% decisions? The left's favorite case, Roe v. Wade, was 5-4. Bush v. Gore was 7-2, and that was *before* Roberts and Alito were on the bench. What exactly is it you mean here?

And you're wrong about taking your property, as they're merely acting in loco parentis and return your property when certain conditions are met. If you think talking on a cell phone in class is a First Amendment right, your understanding of the Constitution is less than you think it is. I'm sure you don't believe that (about the cell phone and 1st Amendment), but certainly you must admit there's a line to be drawn. Government and its institutions limit your rights all the time, but they must be *reasonable* time, place, and manner restrictions.

Tyler said...

Why do you assume everything has to be a partisan issue. When I said I'm appalled about a lack of unanimous decision-making, I was in no way blaming the "democrats" or "republicans" on the court - just the court in general. I don't see why you assumed I meant that the "republicans" (conservatives) were to blame for it. And check your facts on those Supreme Court cases - Roe v. Wade was 7-2 while Bush v. Gore was 5-4.

I completely understand the in loco parentis idea - it's that principal that I disagree with. As I said before, I think it's ridiculous (and unconstitutional) that the school is given the right to act as my legal guardian without my consent (as I have no choice in attending school) and then subsequently, as my "guardian," given the right to take away my property.

If you take away the "in loco parentis" status of the school, then the school's taking of my cell phone would be a governmental 4th-amendment search (governmental intrusion into something in which I have a resonable expectation of privacy [my cell phone, for example], see the USSC case of Katz from the 1960's.) And without "in loco parentis" status, according to the fourth amendment, to perform a search without my consent or without a warrant and probable cause would be unconstitutional. When Mr. Judge takes away students' cell phones, he has neither their consent nor a search warrant. His justification is the "in loco parentis" thing, which I think is unconstitutional.

I still disagree that my position on this is judicial activism. You're essentially saying that having a constitutional opinion is judicial activism. JA would imply a blatant disregard of the constitution itself, and a judge's using his power of judicial review to inact his political agenda regardless of whether it fits the constitutional law or not.

Darren said...

7-2 was the ruling in favor of President Bush, 5-4 was the ruling on the appropriate remedy.

When you say that "I can't wait to get onto the Supreme Court to fix this", that means that your mind is made up and you have an agenda. If that isn't judicial activism, I don't know what is.

My guess is that your position on 'in loco parentis' will change as you get older. I know mine has =)

Tyler said...

Fair enough...

Anonymous said...

Actually, anything I give to my children to use, such as a cell phone, is not THEIRS but MINE. So the school is taking MY property without my consent as it doesn't even belong to the kid. I believe kids are not even entitled to wages they earn, the law assumes wages belong to the parent, so why here do they assume the electronic item even belongs to the kid?