Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Censorship Or Common Decency?

THE SEATTLE TIMES declined to run this advertisement for the Vagina Monologues, the 12-year old play that has been performed around the world - in major theaters, at Catholic universities and even in high school auditoriums.

"The artwork was something we didn't feel was appropriate for our audience," a Times' VP of advertising told the Seattle Weekly.

Sponsors of the show, including the Seattle branch of the National Council of Jewish Women, are baffled. Many other media outlets in Seattle ran the advertisement as it is.

Did the newspaper make the right call in declining the ad? Is it too risque? Does common decency say that ad does not belong in a place where children might see it?

Or did they cross the line? Are they being overly protective, and maybe a little judgmental?

(by the way, be sure to click on the blue link above and read the comments posted to the original story).


Anonymous said...

did you know that the vagina monologues are coming to temple on the 22nd and 23rd. good or bad?

-former student

Geo said...

Be proud of who you are, anonymous former student. Tell us your name. Don't be shy.

We're all family here.

- George (the teacher)

Doanh said...

I don't think the ad is indecent at all. The word, VAGINA is in the ad. What do people expect? It's always the conservative groups that think too much into these absurd issues and make big morality mountains out of molehills. I don't think many children will get that this ad is supposed to look like a vagina. And if they do, who cares? When are we going to stop labeling our own bodies as taboo?

Kristen said...

I am in the Temple production of the Vagina Monologues(small part mind you)...this newspaper is just another reason why productions of the VM is so important. The play itself is not politically correct in its content, but it is true, based on interviews and can be read and understood through the V-day Campaign Website...if you can't find it i have a copy kristen.mosbrucker@temple.edu and is ever changing by adding new pieces each year.

I would want to ask the paper how many scantily clad fashion models, celebrities, or explicit "massage services" (if you aren't sure about what I'm talking about just check the 'personal ad section' of the PW or City Paper) are featured in their issues. They are being very DENSE in their quick judgment, I bet they have no idea what the play is about. Ignorance is the problem, not the artwork.

The play is running at Temple in the Student Center, 'UNDERGROUND' with an open rehearsal on the 21st, and performances on the 22nd and 23rd. 15% of proceeds go to the International V-day Campaign which helps fund shelters for women around the world, and the rest are going to a charity in Philadelphia.

Does this ad really offend people? Its less explicit than most ads put up on billboards, and is promoting an anti-violence campaign...I guess they don't trust their readers to be intelligent and informed.

Jason Pearlman said...

Personally I don't see how anyone could be offended by an image of a vagina, seeing as we were all birthed out of one, except c-section babies of course.

I'm sure the paper has no issue with advertising for a violent film, or something in the same vein. Sexuality (and I'm pretty sure this is not even sexuality - more just femininity) is so often tabooed in this country while violence and other actually evil things are freely available.

But honestly, they should be freely available. And so should vaginas. Especially subtle images of vaginas displayed as an ad for a work of art.

Maggie said...

the image, in my opinion is not risque at all! If they are worried about children seeing the image, i can say with confidence that they will only notice the heart. I think that they are being overly protective.

Also the vagina monologues are not some piece of trashy play, it is more about empowering women.

Christina Bridgwater said...

I don't see the problem. I agree at first glance I saw the heart. Even if people do see it, it's a body part. Not that big of a deal at all.

Rachel Wolkiewicz said...

This country is so sexually explicit in general that I really don't understand the need to censor the rare piece of subtle artwork (which wasn't even meant to be explicit or sexual in nature). Perhaps the editors are male chauvinists who are set on suppressing women's rights to free speech, even through artwork.

And who is this audience that they are afraid to offend? Grown men and women? I'm sure the majority have never seen such a thing...

keith said...

The Seattle Times should have ran the ad just because of the anti-voilence message of the Monologues, its an important message for any demographic. But the newspaper does have a right to refusal, and I am sure The Seattle Times wasn't the first to do so. The majority of the public's first impression of the The Vagina Monologues is probably one of risque/crude comedy, and a passing glance is the extent of attention an ad recieves in a newspaper. So dispite the extraordinary message founded into the Monologues, the title gives an impression of something less than empowering or righteous. So does the newspaper have the responsibility to run the ad to convey the positive message to the public? Or should the Monologues have created a second, more conservative, ad to ensure that it reached and helped the maximum amount of people in any given area. I think its a little bit of each, the newspaper should want to spread such a message, and the Monologues should understand that this is not an ideal world, and that public image is tied to revenue, so some might refuse to run the ad.

Anonymous said...

That heart is rather vagina-y, but I don't think the vagina-heart was trying to offend anyone. Nor did the heart of vaginas use the F-word.

Any small child who can actually recognize that the heart is comprised of vagina parts is not nearly sheltered enough to be sensitive to the ad's content.

Question for Jason: I'm curious to know what you meant when you mentioned that vaginas should be freely available? I liked where your ideas were headed, but that last part through me off the loop a bit.

- Caitlyn, Journalism & Society Alumnus

Anonymous said...

haha vagina...

Veronika said...

Do children even take the time to look at newspapers nowadays? I actually think they turn on the TV and see worse than this. I actually think this is quite tasteful artwork. In fact, one who might be offended by the artwork from the gate could get a sense of desire to look deeper into the whole idea and purpose of "The Vagina Monologues" and in fact feel quite inspired by Eve Ensler's award-winning work. "The Vagina Monologues" is actually aimed to stop violence against women. Believe it or not, there is plenty more offensive material that we let slip, and I think this is far from offensive. Especially if kids are growing up way faster nowadays due to all of the junk they see and experience, this artwork might actually be
educational for kids. It might actually diversify them.

What is more offensive? -- This tasteful artwork that might
spark immediate shock, but later get people interested to go
behind the instant vagina artwork and look into the meaning... OR Jane Fonda being interviewed on the Today Show about "The Vagina Monologues" and spitting out the word cunt on national morning TV for kids to hear? ...And later having to send out a public apology. My opinion -- No harm in this artwork. Feminism is working it's wonders for more public attention... Shocking the audience is the way to go in today's world.

maress said...

This issue is not about a vagina, it's about fear.
The gatekeepers of the Seattle Times fear The effects of the liberties these brave women are taking.
They fear the demise of the phallic symbols that dominate our lives, (take a look at philly's skyline, you'll see a few)
They fear any glimmer of a matriarchal society on the horizon (although we have a long way to go, i'm afraid)

Fear breeds a lack of communication and therefore a lack of understanding.

The purpose of the Vagina Monologues is to dispel fear in women and men.

If sexuality is made less of a taboo topic, in a tasteful manner of course, communication lines open up and issues like rape and abuse become less of a popular topic.


Now that I am off my evangelical tirade, I will say that this ad is tasteful and Seattle would have benefited from its publication.

Senjoi 1zed said...

if the ruling over whether or not something is obscene can be decided by applying the LAPS test, (LAPS standing for Literary, Artistic, Political, Scientific and the test being whether or not the piece fulfills one or more of these criteria) then I'd have to say that no, this ad is not obscene. it's an artistic rendering from an artist that obviously has mad love for the vag. as a vag owner, I approve. if the man doesn't, he can turn the page. yes, art is objective. i feel, however, it is for the viewer to decide. not the editor.

Shauna said...

i think this is a pretty abstarct artwork. Those who do not know what a vagina looks like, such as young children, would not really be able to tell what this drawing is of, other than a heart. It's not graphic or realistic in any way. It's more of an interpretation with an obvious suggestion for those who are mature enough to know what it is.

David( Im not the one to blog with )Hall said...

First of all lets just start by agreeing that vagina is a beautiful thing. However, i dont know about anyone else but that doesnt look like a vagina and ive seen a vagina or two in my day. Its stupid but I think the fact that there was a womens group involved is probably some of the reasoning behind it. Lets face it women hate to see anything even remotely sexual or degrading so to speak but tend to perpetuate it very often. Hypocritzes? I dont know who am I to judge.


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