Above is an advertisement that’s running in the Monmouth County edition of our newspaper. Having had our own office discussion about the ad, for a forthcoming production of “The Vagina Monologues” (which I’ll get to in a bit), I was intrigued to read in the The Seattle Weekly that the local daily, The Seattle Times, refused to run a racy ad for a production of “The Vagina Monologues” co-sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women’s Seattle office. Says the Times‘ VP of advertising, Mei-Mei Chan:
”The artwork was something we didn’t feel was appropriate for our audience.”
Interestingly enough, the ad did run in the JT News, the local Jewish paper (and another of the event’s sponsors), and Temple B’nai Torah and several area synagogues prominently displayed a poster of the artwork in question, a heart whose center forms the shape of labia majora complete with a circular depiction of a clitoris.
“The artwork was created by a member of my congregation,” says Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg of B’nai Torah, which is located in Bellevue. “We have it hanging in several places in our Temple. I was just very disappointed that the Times didn’t share our appreciation for what I consider to be tasteful and beautiful artwork. It’s okay for a house of worship — I know it’s hanging in many other synagogues and Jewish institutions. I have a lot of respect for the Seattle Times, so it was really surprising.”
So would the New Jersey Jewish News run the Seattle ad? Absolutely not. Nosirree. I find the Seattle ad’s graphic way too explicit for a family newspaper. I can’t think of any other context in which we would run a clearly unambiguous illustration of female — or male — genitalia (unless, perhaps, accompanying an article about health or circumcision, but even then it would have to convey information that could be conveyed in no other way).
“The Vagina Monologues” is a project that battles domestic abuse and promotes positive body image. Consequently its supporters and sponsors seem to be saying that any language or imagery attached to it automatically bears an air of righteousness. (Can the same claim be made for Puppetry of the Penis?) Here’s a comment from a reader of the Seattle Weekly blog:
The newspaper’s refusal to run the ad is exactly what the Vagina Monologues is all about.
At the Seattle Times, the vagina is apparently so taboo that an abstract artistic representation of it is considered unsuitable for publication. Isn’t this precisely the mindset that the play challenges?
But is that really the message of “The Vagina Monologues” — “liberating” mass media to show graphic depictions of vaginas? This is a victory for women how?
So why did we approve the ad for the NJ production of “Monologues”? I thought the parentheses motif was subtle enough to get its message across without crossing any boundaries of taste or, more to the point, appropriateness. If you see a vagina, fine — otherwise it’s a pair of pink parentheses.