Justice For Women

In the Church. In the World.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hug this Jesuit.

Bex, I hope you are reading this. ;)

I did a random search on Busted Halo with the keywords "domestic violence" (yes, I am looking for places to freelance), and up popped, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like? by James Keane, SJ - a beautiful defense of The Vagina Monologues at Fordham University. And that doesn't mean one necessarily has to like it to defend it:

Unlike the vast majority of the protesters, I have actually sat down and read the Vagina Monologues. It ain'ít Shakespeare. Truth be told, I didn't even find it to be very compelling. Then again, I'm a thirty-year-old man with a vow of chastity, and I doubt that Eve Ensler and I fish in the same literary ponds. But its popularity on college campuses quite clearly has nothing to do with its artistic merits; what the staging of the Vagina Monologues is almost always about is a chance for female students to celebrate womanhood and speak out against domestic violence and sexism.

And a particularly stunning hallelujah moment:

The Tuesday night before the play opened at Fordham, I was delighted to see two female students at the Latin mass on campus wearing pink t-shirts that read "This is what a feminist looks like." Hallelujah! I'd wear one myself, but the other scholastics in my house look at me funny if I dress in pink. But is this not exactly the message we want to send to young Catholics? That the gospel is empowering to women, that their voices are heard in the Church, that the Church is better off if they express themselves and cherish their womanhood?

With a comment on the state of our future priests:

And who made up a significant portion of the protestors outside the Vagina Monologues at Fordham University? You guessed it, a gaggle of local Catholic seminarians

And the ramifications of their actions:

For the length of the protest, every student entering and exiting the dorm came face to face with that crucifix and that painting, used not as signs of hope and charity but instead as instruments of division and intimidation. The typical student response, that it looked like what you might find outside an abortion clinic, is perhaps the most heartbreaking news of all. In the students' minds, the protestors (some in Roman collars) had equated a real and menacing evil, the slaughter of unborn children and the mutilation of their mothers, with a student-produced play put on to encourage women's empowerment. And that , in case you're wondering, is a perfect example of why many young women take official Church teaching on sexual morality with a grain of salt. The line between divinely inspired teachings and misogynist threats is, in such circumstances, tragically blurred.

While I disagree with Fr. Keane's thoughts on abortion (but I will say, he certainly sounds like a pro-life feminist I could have a very thoughtful and intellectually honest conversation with), I think he strikes on a very important point. I've commented on the use of such imagery outside of abortion clinics as the same - instruments of division and intimidation - which drive women and men away from the Christian community instead of inviting them in to conversation. And Fr. Keane is right on about one of the reasons it is so difficult to take Chruch teaching on sexuality seriously, that women's lives and experiences are seen as dirty, heretical, or worthless. And perhaps it's not strictly the fault of official Church teaching, but of fundamentalist interpretations of it.

My favorite part, though, was the counter-protest by students:

A group of student counter-protesters chanted one night, "Who's Catholic? I'm Catholic!" And they're right, being Catholic has little to do with obsessive heresy-hunting and much to do with the joyful celebration of Christian life. The students radiate such joy in abundance. Could the protesters say the same?

That's right! Who's Catholic? I'M CATHOLIC! :)

While this article was written in May 2005, I'll be forwarding this onto the women I know organizing at my alma mater. Please pray that all the performances of The Vagina Monologues will educate, bring healing to many, and bring abundance to the organizations it funds.


  • At 7:40 PM, Blogger Becky said…

    J, this is amazing! I tracked him down via my supercool Jesuit network and asked him if he wants to write for us.

    And yes, I always read this. :-)


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