Wasn’t it just International Women’s Day? Couldn’t we celebrate instead of attacking women?
Update: Contact phone number for John Jay High School in NY: 914 763-7200 Leave a message with the principal in support of the Megan Reback, Elan Stahl and Hannah Levinson.
I got a link to the censorship taking place at John Jay High School in the mail today. Seems women’s bodies are still dirty and unsuitable for children (er well, it’s okay if we give birth to them — lots of them in fact). It doesn’t matter that these girls defied the order not to say the word “VAGINA” — that order was Wrong. There is nothing wrong with what these three girls did, nothing at all. I’m glad to see support from the community, and how it’s crossing borders into Canada and soon will go beyond. Hopefully it will come from far and wide and this school’s admins will realize that rules like this try to make women feel ashamed of their bodies. I’m especially glad to read this quote from Dana Stahl, Elan Stahl’s mother, “To me, they were reciting literature in an educational forum and they did it with grace and dignity.” Way to go Elan!
I wonder if there are other words associated with women’s sexuality that are not allowed at this school? Like rape? Could you imagine a school where girls are not allowed to talk about rape? Scary scary — what we do not hear does not exist, right?
I’d like to see the principal apologize to these girls and the community and tell us that he does not think women are shameful, sexless, dirty and offensive. I’d like these girls to organize some mandatory workshops for staff about the importance of a healthy attitude towards women’s bodies and how this is directly linked to women’s position in society (i.e. the end of misogyny). The staff could get a special certification at the end of the workshop (which includes writing an essay on the topic) — maybe “Gynophile”? or how about this classic: “Teacher”? These workshops would be adapted for the students at the school too because they’ve all been told now that “vaginas” are a problem. I’m not looking forward to seeing how that plays out in their futures. What do you think Megan, Elan, and Hannah? Actiongirls would be happy to help!
Here is the entirety of principal’s statement. He’s insisting that the girls are not suspended because they said vagina but because they said vagina when they were told not to say vagina. This is sooo not cool. Mr. Leprine, really, it gets easier the more you say it. And as for kids hearing it — it wasn’t that long ago that they were sliding through their mothers’. They’ll be okay. Maybe even better than okay.
March 6, 2007
Dear John Jay Community Members:
I appreciate the concerns expressed by students and parents over the monologue issue that occurred last Friday night at the “Open Mic Night.”
John Jay High School recognizes and respects student freedom of expression in the context of the school setting. That right, however, is not unfettered, particularly when an activity or event is open to the general school community where it is expected that young children may be in attendance. The challenge is to balance the rights of student speakers and the sensitivities of the community. The School’s response to that challenge was to pre-audition the students before several faculty members for the “Open Mic Night” and to determine the suitability of the intended presentations for the audience. In many cases, younger siblings, often elementary age, attend these types of events. This event was also being videotaped for the local cable television channel.
When a student is told by faculty members not to present specified material because of the composition of the audience and they agree to do so, it is expected that the commitment will be honored and the directive will be followed. When a student chooses not to follow the directive, consequences follow. The students did not receive consequences because of the content of the presentation.
There is a clear difference between putting on a production of a play such as “The Vagina Monologues” and an open performance at the microphone of an excerpt from the play before unsuspecting parents and their children. In the first case, the community would have been aware of the nature of the production and could have made an educated decision to attend or not to attend based upon that knowledge. In the case of the “Open Mic Night,” the community was invited with the expectation that the pieces presented would be appropriate for the general community, including younger children. Parents and community members did not have the ability to make an educated decision about the appropriateness of the content of the presentations for younger children.
There is also a clear difference between what is read and discussed in the classroom and what is presented in an activity open to the entire community. Our judgment was guided by the forum, the audience and the students’ commitment. Our decision was made in a considered, careful and thoughtful manner.