[IMC-Audio] WFSB Hartford: school suspends three 16-year-old girls for saying the word "vagina" during a reading from "The Vagina Monologues"
King Daevid MacKenzie
echoesmaster at charter.net
Wed Mar 7 12:34:15 PST 2007
Girls Who Said 'Vagina' During Monologues Suspended
Defiant Stand Applauded By Play's Author
March 6, 2007
CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- A public high school has suspended three
16-year-old girls who disobeyed officials by saying the word "vagina"
during a reading from "The Vagina Monologues."
Their defiant stand is being applauded by the author of the well-known
feminist play, who said Tuesday that the school should be celebrating,
rather than punishing, the three juniors.
"Don't we want our children to resist authority when it's not
appropriate and wise?" said author Eve Ensler.
The three honor students, Megan Reback, Elan Stahl and Hannah
Levinson, included the word because "we knew it was the right thing to
do. Since we're comfortable saying it, we should make other people
comfortable saying it," Levinson said.
The excerpt from "Monologues" was read Friday night, among various
readings at an event sponsored by the literary magazine at John Jay
High School in Cross River, a New York City suburb. Among the other
readings was a student's original work and the football coach quoting
The girls took turns reading the excerpt until they came to the word,
then said it together.
"My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women's army," they read.
"I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina's country."
The suspension has prompted allegations of censorship. But Principal
Richard Leprine said Tuesday that the girls were punished not because
of what they said but because they disobeyed orders not to say it.
In a statement, Leprine said that because the event was open to the
community, including children, the word "vagina" was not appropriate.
He said the girls had been told when they auditioned that they could
not use the word.
Reback said Tuesday that no one in the audience was younger than high
school age. "What did we do that was so wrong?" she asked. "We were
insubordinate, but the reason we were insubordinate was that we talked
about our body."
The principal said that the school respects students' right to freedom
of expression. "That right, however, is not unfettered.
"When a student is told by faculty members not to present specified
material because of the composition of the audience and they agree to
do so, it is expected that the commitment will be honored and the
directive will be followed," Leprine said. "When a student chooses not
to follow the directive, consequences follow."
Bob Lichtenfeld, superintendent of the Katonah-Lewisboro school
district, which includes John Jay, said, "If the high school students
wanted to put on a production of 'The Vagina Monologues,' they
probably wouldn't have had any opposition. As long as the intended
audience knows what to expect, we don't have a problem with it."
Ensler said the girls were right for "standing up for art and against
Eve Ensler, author of 'The Vagina Monologues'
"The school's position is absurd, a throwback to the Dark Ages," she
said. "So what, if children were to hear the word? Would that be
terrible? We're not talking about plutonium here, or acid rain, a word
that destroys lives. It's a body part!"
She said she called the girls to support them because "the school put
them in an impossible position."
The girls said they had the support of their parents. "To me, they
were reciting literature in an educational forum and they did it with
grace and dignity," said Dana Stahl, Elan Stahl's mother.
The girls will all serve one-day, in-school suspensions, beginning
"The Vagina Monologues," presented as various women's thoughts about
sexual subjects, has become a phenomenon since its Off-Broadway
opening in 1996. All-star readings are common and on "V-Day" each
year, usually Feb. 14, local volunteers, college students and a few
high schools produce benefit performances of the play to raise funds
to battle violence against women. The "V-Day" Internet site says there
were more than 2,700 such events last year.
Performances occasionally provoke controversy.
Conservative Catholics criticized the University of Notre Dame's
decision to allow a performance on campus last April. This year,
student planners couldn't get an academic sponsor.
Last month, a board member of a central Kentucky historic theater quit
after objecting to the theater's marquee advertising "The Vagina
King Daevid MacKenzie.
No brag, just fact.
"You're only entitled to your informed opinion." HARLAN ELLISON
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