Members of the Women’s Center discovered their sponsored sign advertising for the upcoming performance of “Vagina Monologues” defiled as of Tuesday, Feb. 13. The bright pink banner displayed on the right hand side of Sykes Student Union was left damaged the word “vagina” was cut out of it. According to Katie Jacob, president of the Women Center Club and one of the co-coordinators of the performance, “only that word was destroyed.”
A similar incident of vandalism occurred last year as well; however, the banner was torn down and stomped on, according to Katie Tanner, another member of the Women’s Center. Tanner said that this anti-V-Day campaign may be a result of the sentiments of those who not only are “uncomfortable with feminism,” but will “take extreme measures to censor the Women’s Center’s freedom of speech.”
Also last year, according to Jacob, a professor filed a complaint about another professor’s hanging of an advertising sign for the play on the latter professor’s bulletin board, which was located in Main Hall. This dispute was taken outside of the parameters of Main Hall and was further discussed with the University. The sign was removed according to Jacob.
Tanner says that any number of conveyed messages could have been the motive of the perpetrator(s). Some may deem this as a prank, according to Tanner, but she said, “This is going very far for a prank.”
Jacob defined this act of vandalism as a “figurative rape” in that now the women are asked to begin “reclaiming their body parts,”
In addition to being an act of vandalism, Jacob said the incident was filed as a hate crime.
The sign was not only advertising the play, which will be performed on Feb. 23 and 24 in Emilie K. Asplundh Hall, but it stated information for those people are experiencing domestic abuse who want to seek help.
According to Jacob, if a person were abused and wanted to seek help, the only image that person would perceive would have been the defaced sign. This, she said, gives neither confidence nor reassurance to the victim.
The proceeds for the performances do not benefit the Women’s Center fiscally. According to Tanner, the play raises money for various shelters for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. These shelters and organizations include the Chester County Domestic Violence Center and the Crime Victims’ Unit.
“It’s upsetting that somebody would defile something that would.help people,” Tanner said.
The word “vagina,” according to Tanner, is an approved word that neither steps across any lexical boundaries nor is graphic.
Robin Garrett, director of the Women’s Center, said that “vagina” is a very precise term for the part of the female body. She also said that this crime is “a vicious and stupid act of vandalism.” Garrett went on to say that there is no act of vandalism that is not vicious or stupid.
“If you don’t want to go see the show, then you don’t go,” Tanner said.
But, Jacob also identified this as an example of sexism in that the person(s) who committed the act wanted to convey that women are “not worth it” and that they “shouldn’t stand up for ourselves.”
According to Jacob, a school in Florida had to replace “vagina” with another word when advertising and showing the performance.
The women currently are trying to find a way to regain funds for the sign, but according to Jacob, it cost several hundred dollars.
Tanner said that she was incredulous of the fact that someone would “be offended by an event that is geared toward helping people that have been victimized by violence.”
“It’s like cutting the word ‘blood’ of a blood drive sign,” Tanner said.