The Independent Women’s Forum has launched a cleverly titled campaign to rescue romance from radical feminists. Take Back the Date, a project of the IWF’s campus outreach program, is an effort to “reclaim” Valentine’s Day (a holiday that interested my college classmates and me not at all) from V-Day anti-violence activists — that is, from “radical feminists on campus who use a day of love and romance to promote vulgar and promiscuous behavior through activities like The Vagina Monologues.” I’m taking this as good news: Apparently, feminists are finally as powerful as Hallmark.
TBTD encourages students instead to engage in good old-fashioned dating, providing a handy conversion chart to help young women calculate how much they should put out based on which entree they ordered. Kidding! Seriously: TBTD does exhort students (male and female) to ask each other out (buy flowers, hold doors, the works), write editorials about the “dangerous messages that V-Day promotes,” and plaster “V Monologues” marquees with downloadable “Free Cupid” posters. (“Wouldn’t you prefer to restore mutual respect and a dash of romance to your campus on Valentine’s Day?”)
I’m all for a good old-fashioned DATE date, no matter who pays; the campus “hook-up culture,” such as it is, furrows my brow as well. (And yes, I too have “Vagina” fatigue.) But what I’m also tired of — besides the IWF’s quaint “radical feminist”-phobia — is this: the stale implication that feminism is incompatible with healthy, hearts-and-stars romance, and that chivalry — or, in the 21st century, what we might call courtesy — is incompatible with equality. “The Vagina Monologues,” for one thing, might not be the best choice for a date, but it’s hardly a threat to the very future of eros. And speaking of romance, here’s one TBDT-approved anti-violence activism suggestion: “Teach female students how to safely operate a firearm — by far the best method of self-defense. Invite V-Day members to participate. If they decline, point out their hypocrisy.” Isn’t that sweet?