Say Vagina, Go To Detention
posted by Dan Filler
One of the great things about blogging – much like hanging out in libraries – is that you can discover lots of interesting stuff when you follow the links. Like many other readers, I’ve found the AutoAdmit cyber stalking story pretty compelling and troubling. (Dave tweaks me for my nod to David Lat’s librarian hottie lists. I continue to think that this post falls into a very different category of cyber-jectification, but I’m open to educatin’.) Following various links, from Leiter, through Althouse, to Feministe, I discovered another nugget that I missed in yesterday’s web WaPo: a suburban NY school district suspended three girls for using the word “vagina” in an open-mic reading of (what else?) The Vagina Monologues. Apparently, prior to the performance, the principal had told the 11th graders that they could read the play, but not utter the V-word. Their one-day suspension was therefore framed as punishment for ignoring the principal’s orders. (The principal’s explanation is posted here.) Emil Steiner over the Post gets it right, from my point of view:
Fine, I’m willing to except that cop-out on face value, but if saying “vagina” wasn’t a problem, then why issue an order forbidding it in the first place? Was the school’s objective to teach them that no matter how repressively backwards a rule is, it must be followed blindly? Or maybe its goal was to demonstrate how irony (and/or totalitarianism) works by calling the event an “open mic” and then punishing those with the gall to speak into the said mic openly?
I’m not going to scream First Amendment here because let’s face it: I don’t know the doctrine. (And I can understand that high schools might, in very limited situations, need to regulate speech.) I also suspect that school administrators make similarly stupid decisions all the time – and nobody notices. But geez – did the principal (and note that I don’t name him…what do people think about that decision?) really think that in suburban NY, with three girls who clearly thought this was a worthwhile battle, such silliness would remain a quiet matter?
Actually, I find the story somewhat uplifting. Here we have three girls who appeared to have used excellent judgment both politically (could the girls have found a better chance to score points on both the free speech and feminsim front?) and personally (since, as Steiner says, these girls now have a “kick ass topic for their college essays.”) And I must say that, having read Jill’s compelling and hellish narrative of stalking, the word “uplifting” is about the last thing the AutoAdmit story brings to mind.
By the way, for everyone who found the unnamed victim in the WaPo AutoAdmit story a bit full of herself – the story does suggest that she believes that a Yalie’s failure to garner an offer is akin to a freak of nature (and there is a suggestion, in Althouse comments at least, that she might be a 1L…which makes her job search story somewhat less exceptional) – read Jill’s post. Her story is far more powerful.