Sunday, January 6, 2008

The $64,000 question


NOTE: THIS UPLOAD IS RATED R (but if teenagers can use the word...)

In a message dated 1/5/08 9:25:06 AM, Amherst AC writes:
Jere,
So what did we mean by "portions of"?
Larry

In a message dated 1/5/08 1:21:54 PM, hochmanj@ARPS.ORG writes:
Larry
Lots of details to work on this.

On your "portions" question - last time there was a scene or two omitted or modified. I have questions for this performance and what's included and what's not.

We'll have the same restrictions on age for attendance (last time no middle schoolers or below) and parent permission for others. Parent permission to be a participant. No school day or assembly type performance. Done in context of a week of awareness raising. In other words, choice for those who want to be near it with parent permission and choice for those who don't want to be near it.

Some context - last year the students wanted to do the show. They did the performance off campus in Northampton. Principal (who was not here last time) found it to be an important performance.

I continue to struggle with this (and I did last time, too). It's high school. I get that. These are teenagers. I get that. On the other hand, the world of sex and violence to which they are exposed is outside of our control and the messages are horrendous and they are routine. The movies - the music - and the stories from their college campuses. And although the language and content of this show is as extreme of some of those exposures, it is a message presented in a way that counters much of negative messages they see and hear in the real world.

As I left the performance last time, what struck me was the message that the young men in attendance got. Yes - there was laughter, language, and sexual references - but there was also a powerful message that I have to think continues to run through their minds as they are now young men on college campuses, in fraternities, and out in that real world. The Duke lacrosse team members were not guilty of rape - but two messages came out of that event: that such situations DO occur on campuses (and in spite of what the media does not cover, there is sexual violence on campuses) and what was forgotten was that a group of young men hired strippers for a regular old college party. Perhaps a dose of a few scenes of the performance would get them to think twice.

So - with that - and drawing a circle around it so only those with permission and readiness to attend/participate do so, that may be the balance to strike for high school - and for those who don't get the message - perhaps they get it in other ways as they get older.

Finally - this fits in with recent efforts at raising awareness and focusing on responsiveness for student well-being and safety. We had a committee of counselors and teachers address the issue of a "code of silence" among students and adults. What we learned was that such a code does exist - that students do have incidents and issues - and many do not tell a trained adult. Bullying - internet bullying - all that students are exposed to on the internet - it's only getting worse. We have been addressing that with faculty and staff all year starting with identifying boundaries for the adults and their responsibility as "first responders" to kids and adults with issues. We spend a lot of time on calculus and our six world languages - but these issues, too, are important and who/what Amherst is. If we push the envelope, it will be researched and well-thought out.

More than you asked, but I feel I owe you as much explanation as possible.
Jere

In a message dated 1/5/08 1:33:45 PM, Amherst AC writes:
Hey Jere,
Yeah, a bit more than I asked for. Let me rephrase: Are you going to allow "Reclaiming Cunt" monologue?
Larry

In a message dated 1/5/08 2:18:25 PM, hochmanj@ARPS.ORG writes:
I'll get back to you on that.
Jere

In a message dated 1/5/08 2:26:42 PM, Amherst AC writes:
Her Jere,
And while you're at it: "The little Coochie Snorcher" is #2 on my list. You know, the one where a 24-year-old has sex with a 16-year-old after warming her up with alcohol (and in Ensler's original 1996 edition she was only 14 years old).
Larry

Sunday: 11:45 am. Now that I think about it there are two questions: Will ARHS censor that particularly offensive 'VM' skit (thus vindicating my 2004 crusade) and will the Superintendent of the Amherst Schools actually use the C-word in writing?

5 comments:

Mary E.Carey said...

Looks like a very thoughtful back and forth to me, Larry.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I like Jere (remember: he publicly supported flying the flags on 9/11 two years ago and probably made enemies with our Commie Select board); but I’m still AMAZED he would allow this production without knowing if they are going to perform the MOST offensive skit in the book.

But I’m sure he will get back to me tomorrow with the answer. And then we will know if the Dogs of War are unleashed.

O'Reilly said...

Did you ever notice that a cala lily looks like a vagina?

I was at my nieces 4th birthday party. Her friend EJ announced proudly in a loud voice overheard by everyone, adults and kids alike, "boys have penises, girls have vaginas."

My brother in-law, without missing a beat, said in a similarly loud voice, "Hey EJ, how about those Yankees!?"

The kids heard the names of our sexual parts as information; the adults were the ones who were uncomfortable.

I don't know anything about the play but I think we would be well advised as a culture and society to de-stigmatize the use of the words "penis" and "vagina".

Like Brian and mary.e.carey, I once took a trip to the beach town of Zandvort-am-zee in the Netherlands. It was summer and we went to the beach. Women do not wear bikini tops. Even teenagers, playing volleyball, were comfortable and confident about their bodies while not wearing bikini tops. I wondered how much better off we'd be here in the US if teenagers and adults were comfortable and confident bearing their breasts at the beach. It seems they have a more healthy and wholesome self-image.

My uninformed perspective is that the Vagina Monologues require a mature audience because the play tries to detoxify these charged words and examine sociological issues associated with stigma and sexism.

Good luck with the effort.

LarryK4 said...

It’s not about “penis” or “vagina”—it’s about “cunt” (Damn, I said it again). Just as the point is not about “of color” or “African American”—it’s about the N-word (can’t bring myself to actually use it). Any American of any age can’t yell “fire” in a movie theatre. And a 16-year-old can’t attend a movie showing of “When Harry Met Sally” without parental escort. Just as he/she can’t buy a copy of Penthouse magazine, cigarettes, or beer, or die in freaken Iraq.

O'Reilly said...

I certainly wouldn't want someone using the word cunt without explaining why its so offensive to so many people, same goes for nigger, spic, cracker, sand nigger. The words are used to express hatred and contempt. Isn't the vagina monolgues prescisely about re-claiming the word cunt so that it isn't so toxic? (If in fact that's possible... but you get the idea.)

That tobacco barn is alomst gone.