Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm getting a signal!

The past 24 hours have irrevocably altered my life.

I did not think I would ever have conversations with my siblings where I was defending my God given sexuality and right to love another woman. But I have. In their journeys towards deeper relationships with God, they have somehow come to the conclusion that God has told them that homosexuality is wrong and that if I only read the Bible more carefully and with an open heart, I would come to that conclusion as well.

I am not saying they are bad people, just as they are not saying the same thing about me. I love them unconditionally and am proud and blessed to be their sibling, and I know they feel the same way about me. I just cannot support their position on this, just like they cannot support mine. So as much as I hate to, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I will not talk about it with them anymore because we both feel like the other person isn't open to the idea that the other will be right.

But that doesn't mean I can't talk about it with other people.

I'm getting a signal from God that I may just be starting a movement. It may just be a book. It may just be a series of conversations with people that help them reconnect with God. Either way, I've been made aware of an issue and I plan on providing some help.

LGBT people are worthy and completely capable of having a God-centered, loving commitment. We just haven't really been told that. Hell, we're not even allowed to get legally married in 49 states. But there are churches in all 50 states that will marry and honor a "marriage" between two people of the same gender. That's a very valid and important fact. The government may not validate a gay marriage, but God will.

I not only see the need for a movement based on "Waiting for Commitment", but I feel it, I taste it, I hear it, I know it. The gift of our sexuality from God has been shamed and broken and exploited by our society. And it's time to reclaim it. It's time to reclaim our sacred sexuality and our relationships with God and rooted in God.

I'm filled with God's grace and warmth when I think about this. It is something I must do. God is calling me to this. How exactly it manifests itself is certainly not set in stone, though. I just know that it's rooted in God and love and I can't wait to do Her work :)

Get ready, world, because you're about to change!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Speech on Vaginas

So I was turning in some writing samples to someone at Wolfram and I found this Rhetorical Criticism Speech that I wrote during my senior year of college. I reread it and WOW. It's a good one! I decided I should put it up here. I believe I wrote it for my Advanced Public Speaking class with Dr. Payne. He was cool.

“We forget the vagina. What else would explain our lack of awe; our lack of reverence?”

Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues has made a profound impact on the world. In the February 2004 edition of People magazine, Susan Horsburgh writes about the background of the Vagina Monologues. “The Vagina Monologues began as a small Off-Off-Broadway production in 1996. Since then, the show has been staged in about 1500 cities around the world and has spawned a global movement: V-Day, a campaign to fight violence against women that began as a Valentine’s Day fund-raiser in 1998 and is now an annual two-month season of Monologues benefit performances.” Yvonne Delaney of the New York Amsterdam News states that “Through a combination of vignettes, music and dance, the play details the horrors of violence and physical abuse that are committed against women and girls every day.”

In a world where over one million women are victims of domestic violence each year, changes need to be made. One in three women will suffer some form of domestic violence in their lifetimes. These women are your mothers your daughters your sisters your friends your students; and Eve Ensler has made it her goal to end the violence against them.

In less than ten years, Eve Ensler and her Vagina Monologues have made tremendous strides in ending violence against women. Therefore, we must examine her use of rhetoric, which is in the form of a theatrical show.

In order to best analyze Eve Ensler’s rhetoric, we will examine her work through the eyes of Lloyd Bitzer’s Situational Methodology.

This is the best choice because Eve Ensler has truly made a difference in the world through her Monologues. She discovered a situation that she wanted to change and with her rhetorical method, she has, and still is, successfully responding to it. An article in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, abridged by Kathy Maboll, quotes Lloyd Bitzer as saying “Rhetoric is a mode of altering reality, not by the direct application of energy to objects, but by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action. The rhetor alters reality by thought and action, is so engaged that it becomes a mediator of change;” and Eve Ensler does exactly this.

Therefore, we will consider three points: one, the exigencies which Eve Ensler addresses; two, the audience and how they are affected by the rhetoric; and three, the constraints that she must work with.

We will first look at the exigencies which summon Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

Bitzer describes exigencies as “events, people, and happenings which demand that someone speak.”

There are two exigencies that have sparked Ensler’s rhetoric: women’s own lack of confidence and knowledge about their bodies, and the lack of decreasing rates of violence against women.

Vagina is not the sexiest word in the whole world; in fact, some people consider it down-right rude. Just talking about vaginas can make any person, man or woman, completely uncomfortable. And I’m sure that it by the end of this speech, after I’ve said the word “vagina” __ times, many of you will feel quite uncomfortable.

Why are vaginas so taboo? They are the life-force of humanity. Every woman on earth has one. We all came from one! So why are so many women afraid of them? In a December article in Nation, Jennifer Baumgardner recalls how Janet Kiarie of Nairobi, Kenya first realized the effects of her fear of talking about vaginas. “After the meeting [with Eve Ensler and company], Kiarie went home and asked her 7-year-old daughter if she knew what ‘down there’ was. Her daughter didn’t know the word for vagina – not in English and not in Kikuyu, her own language. ‘That’s when I realized I was depriving her of her own sexuality in some way,’ said Kiarie, ‘by being afraid of my own.’”
Through each monologue, Ensler offers many reasons not to be ashamed of having a vagina, and even more reasons to embrace having one.

There is a more prevalent exigency, though: violence against women. It comes in all different forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, rape, and female genital mutilation, amongst others. Eve’s monologues sparked V-Day – a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. In her same article, Jennifer Baumgardner states, “The salient question is, ‘Is V-Day effective in liberating women and ending violence?’ The answer to that query is ‘yes’ – and at a time when people tend to dismiss the women’s movement as a thing of the 1970s, V-Day boasts 1281 events around the world and $14 million raised in the past few years. It grants more money to antiviolence initiatives than the UN Development Fund for Women does, who, this year, dedicated $1 million to be divided among 22 countries.
Eve’s monologues have also inspired the college campaign., states the purpose of the college campaign, “The V-Day College Campaign invites members of college and university communities around the world to present benefit productions of "The Vagina Monologues” on their campuses on or around V-Day to raise awareness about violence issues as well as raise money for local beneficiaries that are working to end violence against women and girls.”
Each college performance of The Vagina Monologues reaches out to the audience not only in the theatrical way, but also in a humanistic way. It gives them more of a reason to listen and learn and donate time or money to a good cause that they might never have even heard about before coming to the monologues.

The second aspect of Bitzer’s model is the audience. Bitzer states that “a rhetorical audience consists only of those persons who are capable of being influenced by discourse and of being mediators of change.”

The Vagina Monologues has an amazing way of getting the audience to really think about the exigencies and how to become a part of the change.

There are two parts to the rhetorical audience: the change of the mindset, and the after party action.

In the V-Day edition of the Vagina Monologues, Gloria Steinem writes in the foreword, “The value of the Vagina Monologues goes beyond purging a past full of negative attitudes. It offers a personal, grounded-in-the-body way of moving toward the future. I think readers, men as well as women, may emerge from these pages not only feeling more free within themselves – and about each other – but with alternatives to the old patriarchal dualism of feminine/masculine, body/mind, and sexual/spiritual that is rooted in the division of our physical selves into ‘the part we talk about’ and ‘the part we don’t’.” She’s completely right. The rhetorical audience comes away from the Vagina Monologues with the knowledge of what is wrong, and what needs to be fixed.

Once this mindset is discovered, change is made. The world campaign, the college campaign; all these campaigns are proof that the Vagina Monologues is great rhetoric. People come away from the show with a desire to help stop violence against women. I am a personal example of a rhetorical audience. After finally getting over the shock of the title of the show, I decided to go see the Vagina Monologues in 2003. I was completely blown away. I came away from that show with more knowledge about vaginas and women than I had learned in 19 years. I decided that I HAD to be involved the next year. When next year rolled around, I tried out, and was cast in the show. Our proceeds benefited two anti-violence programs called Artemis House and Woman Line. This year I am working on bringing the Vagina Monologues back to the North Central College campus. I’m just one person, and look at the effect it had on me. I performed, and educated, over 800 people my four performances in the Vagina Monologues. If I changed the mindset of even one tenth of that audience, 80 more people are out there working to decrease violence against women.

The third aspect of Bitzer’s model is constraints. “Besides exigencies and audience, every rhetorical situation contains a set of constraints made up of persons, events, objects, and relations which are parts of the situation because they have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify the exigencies,” says Bitzer.

There are two huge constraints on Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues: conservative Christian groups and patriarchal society.

Many colleges, especially Christian-oriented colleges, have a problem with the messages that come across in the monologues. An article in USA Today’s March 2004 issue quotes Cate Brumley, “the play ‘reduces the full potential of a human person’ to a single body part and ‘encourages college women to be sexually promiscuous.’” The Cardinal Newman Society is a national Catholic group has been one of the more prevalent constraints. They call the Vagina Monologues an “assault on young peoples’ minds and morals”. Less and less Christian-affiliated colleges are allowing the production each year. The monologues are still being performed all over and the number of performances is still growing, though its Christian College days are waning.

Patriarchal society has taught us that boys will be boys and girls will be girls. What that means is that boys are to be strong and masculine and unemotional and that girls are to be pretty and silent and eager to please. It may seem like an over-dramatic statement, but in all seriousness, it is not. In a web article called “”Competition and Feeling Superior to Others”, states, “[the fight for gender equality] also seeks to eliminate sexual harassment and sex-role stereotyping in which women are seen as dependent on and inferior to men; as sexual objects for men to leer at; as neurotic, emotional, irrational, weak; as attractive creatures who wait for the right man to come along, have babies, become good mothers, and then have no idea what to do for the last 40-50 years of their lives. A part of this patriarchal mindset is that the vagina is not something to be talked about. It is supposed to hide inside your skirt and only come out when someone else wants it to play.
The Vagina Monologues continues to struggle with that mindset, but slowly and surely it’s winning. It’s becoming easier to say vagina. It’s not as taboo to talk about vaginas.

We now have a general insight of how Eve Ensler has battled with the rhetorical situations she confronts. We have learned about her rhetorical audience and how they contribute to solving the exigencies. And finally, we have discovered a couple of constraints that are holding Eve back from completely eradicating violence towards women all around the world.

“We forget the vagina, all of us. What else would explain our lack of awe, our lack of reverence?”