Fear of the Body, Part 2

First there was fear of the scrotum. Now there is fear of the vagina. In Cross River, NY, three high-school students were suspended for using the word “vagina” while reading from…wait for it…The Vagina Monologues. From the Chicago Tribune (“Girls suspended for V-word“):

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 Shakespeare.

I sure wish the article would have told us which lines of Shakespeare were quoted by the coach (does he do the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V before he sends his team onto the field?) but that’s beside the point. The way the teens delivered this shocking word is worthy of a made-for-TV movie:

The girls took turns reading the excerpt until they came to the word, then said it together.

I have neither seen nor read The Vagina Monologues. It’s entirely possible that it’s not appropriate for a high-school literary salon. But to allow students to read The Vagina Monologues without saying “vagina” is the worst kind of Orwellian Bowdlerism.

(Can I get away with that? “Orwellian Bowdlerism”? Is there a better kind of Orwellian Bowdlerism?)

Best of all is the principal‘s rationale for the suspensions:

But Principal Richard Leprine said Tuesday that the girls were punished because they disobeyed orders, not because of what they said.

Not that’s Orwellian!

Anyway, the dictionaries of slang I’ve consulted inform me that there are hundreds of other possible words that can stand in for “vagina.” If there’s a better one, perhaps the principal can identify it. Or is it the very existence of vaginas that troubles him so?

(Total vagina count in this post: nine.)



Posted in: Book News

About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

1 Comment on "Fear of the Body, Part 2"

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  1. It is an extremely moving and, in part, an extremely funny play, and all of the young women who spoke the word have vaginas. I have a vagina myself. I am sure it is the existence of vaginas that troubles the principal, even as the existence of the scrotum of a dog apparently troubles others.
    I would try to express arch bemusement, if I could. Instead I am astounded. Overcome, even. These are words that are the names of intimate parts of our persons. They are the right words. They mean what they say, and say them we must.
    Do I need to to a public place and say “vagina!” Oh wait, I just did.

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