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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

More than “My Angry Vagina”

< four years of being involved with the Vagina Monologues at Carleton, I'm ready to move on. Not to say "mission accomplished," or to express any amount of boredom with the topic, but to tell Carleton we can outgrow the Vagina Monologues." We can do a lot better.

I hope the show always inspires a renewed sense of respect for women, and for women’s bodies, and for a whole spectrum of sexualities. But for me, the show fails to explicitly incite action towards community-built change. The Vagina Monologues emphasize a lot of really extreme violence, without underscoring the amount of work we can do here in our community on changing the culture around tacit acceptance of sexual violence.

It is misleading that we use the phrase “stopping violence against women” with such frequency in VDay publicity, only because most people define violence really narrowly. At Carleton, sexual violence most often comes from situations where consent is not made clear or respected, from coercion or feelings of obligation to abide by social expectations, from miscommunications or from a misguided sense of entitlement. Succinctly, sexual violence is unwanted sexual actions or words with a person who does not or cannot give consent. Unfortunately and unbelievably, it happens alarmingly often.

Obviously, the million-dollar question is: how can we stop that? One place to start is creating a sex-positive culture where people can talk about what they want and don’t want. Positive change comes from recognizing community standards for what’s acceptable and what’s not, from collectively refusing to condone other people’s disrespectful and harmful actions. We seriously need to stop letting our friends do violent things. We need to stop letting our other friends internalize guilt about “letting” those things happen.

We fail, in our communities, to make time aside from “The Vagina Monologues” for safe spaces and supportive, exploratory, public community gatherings. While we build this culture that refuses to tolerate sexual violence and that understands the deep complexity of sexual violence, I think we need to continue to support the production and the people involved.

“The Vagina Monologues” is only the beginning of the conversation. And the conversation is open to everybody. It has to be. Give your time, sit with a survivor, show your patience and trust. Support the HOPE Center financially or by becoming an advocate. Educate yourself about the atrocities in the Congo or how to help someone navigate Carleton’s sexual misconduct complaint filing process. Stop using the word “rape” casually. Use words like “vagina” and “cunt” with respect. Ask for what you want. Give and get truly meaningful consent. Hold your friends to these standards. Keep doing it. That’s the real message behind “VDAY: Until the Violence Stops.”

-Juliet Dana is a fourth-year student.

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