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ISSUE 120 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 2/23/2007

Pause the Carnival?

By Sharon Reed
Contributing Writer

Friday, February 23, 2007

Many people have been upset this last week because the Vagina Carnival was moved to the Lion’s Pause instead of being placed in Buntrock Crossroads as it has been in previous years. These people see it as a design to silence the Vagina Monologues and to stop people from talking about abuse against women.

Before taking sides on this issue, however, one must examine the reasons for this change. The Vagina Carnival itself contains many offensive and vulgar representations of female private parts, including games called “Church Games Gone Vagina”and a person dressed in a vagina costume.

The intended effect of this display is to grab people’s attention and get them talking about the Vagina Monologues and abuse against women. Its actual effect, however, is to degrade women by reducing womanhood to a sexual organ. The use of these “vagina games” makes light of female sexuality and robs the Monologues of their intended seriousness. It confuses people about their meaning – how can playing vagina games and laughing at a vagina costume cause people to take seriously the consequences of rape for a woman?

The blatant display of female sex organs changes the meaning of the Monologues from protecting women from assault to giving women sexual power. It sends the message that a woman’s dignity and identity comes only from her sex organs. By exposing female genitalia to the public in this way, women are made into sexual objects. The use of these shock tactics, therefore, undermines the original intent of the Monologues to restore dignity and respect to women.

In addition, placing the Vagina Carnival in the Crossroads forces every passer-by, whether he or she wants to or not, to see female genitalia held up for amusement or as an attention-getter. Even those who sincerely believe that this display is morally wrong are forced to see it, if only for a moment, before glancing away. Having the Vagina Carnival in the Crossroads, therefore, robs people of their ability abide by their conscience.

As a woman at St. Olaf, I cannot be anything but glad that the Vagina Carnival was moved to the Pause. This way people have a choice. If they do not wish to view women as sexual objects, and if they wish to believe that there is more to womanhood than having a vagina, then they can avoid the Carnival and do not have to have this demeaning imagery forced upon them.

Contributing writer Sharon Reed is a sophomore from White Bear Lake, Minn. Her major is undecided.

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