Vaginas and Violence

Ah, Valentine's Day.  A day of flowers, crowded restaurants, and single people deciding whether or not they're feeling bitter.  It's also a day when anti-feminists sound the alarm about the frightening feminist takeover of college campuses everywhere.  The feminist crime?  Alerting the world about the existence of two things anti-feminists believe would be better ignored in hopes they'll go away: vaginas and violence against women. 

Now I know what you're thinking: But those two things are very different!  It's true, they are.  Vaginas do so much good for the world and violence against women doesn't do much good at all.  Vaginas give pleasure and give birth, and violence against women is about punishing women for just that.  Oh wait, that's the connection. Vaginas (and reproductive and sexual capacity in general) make society want to control women, and violence is the tool often used in service of that agenda.  Playwright Eve Ensler made this connection many years ago after writing her famous and quite frankly funny play "The Vagina Monologues".  The rampant misogyny that drives people to be afraid to discuss female bits without fear and shame also drives violence against women.  So why not use the play's popularity to raise money to fight violence against women, and simultaneously educate people about these connections?  And do it on Valentine's Day, to keep the "V" thing going and because people are surrounded by reminders of ladyparts everywhere they turn by the red and pink hearts that proliferate on Valentine's Day.  Who could object to fighting rampant misogyny?

Well, it turns out that rampant misogynists object.  Which makes sense–you can't really have rampant misogyny without the misogynists, and nor can you expect them to give up their worldview that easily. Anti-feminist women's organizations (Yes, you'd think that's a contradiction in terms, but some women find sister-bashing quite the profitable enterprise.) have made a sport out of protesting the various campus productions of "The Vagina Monologues" that help raise money and awareness every year. 

The Independent Women's Forum, along with Concerned Women for America, takes the lead, and has established a "Take Back The Date" counter-event, based on the argument that admitting one has a vagina and attracting dates are mutually exclusive activities.  They have some success with this argument, though it's hard to say where they're finding women who think men would rather ask them out if they believe a) you don't have a vagina to speak of or at least b) they'll never have to see the foul thing.  Perhaps if you pick up all your dates at "ex-gay" events, then the promise of a future together with all roses, no nudity does work as a pick-up line. 

Unfortunately, the hostility towards raising women's self-esteem and fighting violence through this play hasn't stopped at just establishing pouty counter-events advocating that self-esteem and opposition to violence are unromantic.  This year at St. Louis University, campus feminists found that the university not only wouldn't permit the play on campus, they tried to shut down another Ensler play, having already refused to approve "The Vagina Monologues", all in order to appease funders who don't approve of women's autonomy. 

Critics of V-Day performances of "The Vagina Monologues" would have you believe that they're just motivated by a squeamishness about ladyparts, and not that they're necessarily opposed to women's right not to be beaten or raped.  But I am more suspicious.  Not that anyone is like, "Yea, wife-beating!", but advocacy against violence against women necessarily fits into a pantheon of beliefs centered around the belief that women are full human beings deserving of their full rights.  Which means reproductive rights, the right to non-traditional family choices, the right to dignity within the family, and the right to feel good about yourself as a woman, all things that set social conservatives on edge.  In short, you can't stop rape and domestic violence without curtailing male dominance, and social conservatives support male dominance. 

And they're quite aware of how you can't have a male dominance omelet without cracking some rape and wife-beating eggs.  Take the situation in South Carolina, for example.  When feminists protested the fact that wife-beating is a misdeameanor, even though cock-fighting is about to become a felony, legislators dismissed the protesters by questioning their intelligence and suggesting that cock-fighting is indeed brutal in a way that beating the tar out of your supposed loved one is not.  

In Tenneesse, a state senator gruffed during abortion law hearings about how the rape laws protect all women, instead of a man's virgin daughter property alone, stating:

"Rape, ladies and gentlemen, is not today what rape was. Rape, when I was learning these things, was the violation of a chaste woman, against her will, by some party not her spouse. Today it's simply, ‘Let's don't go forward with this act.' "

In this case, the outrageous quote was directly in service of another part of the anti-feminist agenda.  Democratic legislators in the state are using women's basic rights as a political football to score points against Republicans in a gamble that might not win for them and certainly not for women.

In all the pearl-clutching about the word "vagina", it's important not to miss the forest for the trees.  Are social conservatives just easily offended babies who faint at hearing that women actually have genitals?  (What do they think the precious babies emerge from, anyway?)  Or do they oppose the actual message of V-Day and "The Vagina Monologues"—that women are full human beings, equal to men, and deserving of full autonomy and self-determination.  Considering all the hostility towards not just the play, but the day, I'm firmly convinced that it's the latter.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

For more information or to schedule an interview with contact

Follow Amanda Marcotte on twitter: @amandamarcotte

  • invalid-0
  • invalid-0

    Just because people are raising money to end violence against women doesn’t mean they don’t know that men can be and are victims of violence as well.

    I think your “response” totally missed the point.

  • invalid-0

    Raise money for male victims of domestic violence and then we’ll talk.

  • amanda-marcotte

    Why don't you do it? Do you honestly think that no woman should ever get services until every man is taken care of first? I disagree. That's the dictionary definition of sexism. If violence against men is real to you, and you think it's a problem, start your own shelter.

    It's worth noting that most shelter attempts for men have basically failed for lack of need. Creating all these shelters for men that will go unused to make sure that all men are cared for before a single woman gets a single service is just blatant misogyny, an attempt to flush money down the toilet rather than give it to the hated woman.

  • invalid-0

    so, why dont we worry about violence against men? I think this Amanda needs a “reality check”. There is need for homeless shelters or shelters of abused men. You also state that is would be throwing money down the toilet if you made shelters…. how could you say that? Do you not know the number of men that are screwed over by women?

    • invalid-0

      There are studies and statistics you can look to on the web or in the library; and, they will tell you that for approximately every man that is beaten/abused by a female partner, four women are beaten/abused by a male partner.
      This doen not even take into account the women who are victims of violence and rape by strangers or aquaintances.
      The ratio is not 1:1; it is 1:4.
      Violence against any human, male or female is wrong, and men deserve compassion empathy and assistance when abused; but don’t pretend that misogyny and violence against women is not more widespread.

  • harry834

    when you say "screwed over", do you mean violence? I'm honestly asking. I think that we're unfamiliar with how many men get physically abused by women. It's sort of unstudied territory.

    Amanda says that men's shelters have failed for lack of need. Are you saying that there is a need? If so, how did these shelters fail?

    I really would want to know about the abuse in the other direction. But it is well established that there are a lot more women who get violently abused by men. That is why we're sure there is a need for them. If you can show there is a need for men, such that men's shelters would not close due to lack of need, then we can learn something, and I'd be grateful.

  • invalid-0

    I’ve gone to the link above, and it seems to be that the main point is that the play is anti-male. If by male you mean ‘person who rapes, uses women as objects, and generally seeks to oppress and hurt and own women’ then yes, it’s anti-male. But not all of us are stupid enough to equate that definition with all males. Also, there probably isn’t as much media acceptance of women abusing men as there is of men abusing women. We’re in a culture that blames victims of rape. Is that the same for male victims of rape? Would they be blamed? Part of this play’s purpose (as I see it, anyway) is to get a more positive, more empowering message out there to combat these negative media portrayals. Being for women does not mean you are against the opposite. That kind of view is foolishly jumping to conclusions.

  • invalid-0

    It is sad that MS Marcotte so enjoys playing both the wounded woman and the bigot. In every study on domestic violence that has ever been done by a bonafide reputable research organization, it has been noted that women are just as violent as men. Furthermore numerous studies have indicated that when there are domestic violence issues, both men and women are responsible. There are more than 40 peer reviewed academic studies by University Sociologists that support this statement. Feminists portray domestic violence as a man deciding to arbitrarily inflict violence on a woman. As any normal person knows, this is not only totally misleading, but a downright lie. What we find in almost all cases is two desperate ignorant and mostly clueless people that engage in heated arguments that ultimately results in either one or both using physical force in order to resolve their issues. The Feminist Mantra is “the man is at fault.” The sad reality is that both parties are at fault. Both contribute to an ugly environment that consistently spirals out of control and ultimately becomes physical. In many cases there are children involved and they too learn that the proper way to resolve disputes is with their fists. And, as for the issue of violence against women, I find it rather bizarre that Feminists rant and rave about violence against women, but have no problems whatsoever with men-on-men violence or sibling violence. Gee is it possible that Ms Marcotte could see past her “Vagina” to recognize that under the laws of all countries,violence against anyone is not tolerated.
    Just maybe if Feminist were not as rabidly bigoted and myopic as they are they would see that by joining together and working on proactive ways of dealing with family dysfunctionality we may be able to resolve so many of these pernicious issues–that ultimately degrade into domestic violence–but then what would a true dyed-in-the-wool feminist find to whine about?

  • harry834

    "I find it rather bizarre that Feminists rant and rave about violence against women, but have no problems whatsoever with men-on-men violence or sibling violence."

    Feminists do acknowledge man-on-man violence. As for sibling violence, I have no statement. I do think everone could learn more about sibling violence.