My vagina's school district

High school students suspended for saying the V-word. (No, not in biology class.)


Lynn Harris
March 7, 2007 11:27PM (UTC)

If they'd only said "hoohaa," they'd be in school today. As the Associated Press reports, three admirably unrepentant 16-year-old honor students have been suspended from John Jay High School in New York's Westchester County for saying the word "vagina" as part of an open-mike night. The girls had recited an excerpt from "The Vagina Monologues" containing the line: "My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women's army. I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina's country."

Now, I'm as tired of V-synecdoche as the next gal, but I have to say this story has become highly entertaining. According to school administrators, the girls were suspended not because they said the V-word but because they'd been asked not to. Wait, what? "School board President Peter Breslin said the decision to suspend the students was not about censorship, but rather about insubordination. He said school administrators had been concerned about the use of the word because young children would be at the open mic session, and the girls had agreed not to say it," reports the Westchester (N.Y.) Journal News. (In an excerpt from "The Vagina Monologues"? "You can sing Old MacDonald, but don't say 'Old MacDonald.'" What did they expect them to say instead, scrotum?) "I think the students need to understand that if you make an agreement with the administration to do something, and then you don't do it, there's going to be consequences for that," Breslin said. "We are very committed to free expression and we do not tolerate censorship in our district."

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Consequences, schmonsequences, said the girls. "When I was able to say the word 'vagina' and be proud to say it ... and it wasn't crude and it wasn't inappropriate and it was very real and very pure, it was important to me," Megan Reback, a junior, told the Journal News. "We were willing and ready to take whatever came."

"We had no doubt in our minds that we were willing to be 'insubordinate' to do the right thing and get this word out there, and we were willing to take whatever consequence," said Hannah Levinson, also a junior.

Hooah to that, said Planned Parenthood. "Planned Parenthood, especially in our role as an educator, is committed to teaching children and teens to feel comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality and a large part of that is using the appropriate names of body parts. 'Vagina' is not a dirty word and it should never be treated as such. These three young women should be proud of themselves for knowing that," Joan Malin, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, told Broadsheet.

Now that the media has descended, the students have gotten their wish: Oh yes, the word is out there. That, and (as Emil Steiner of the Washington Post points out) they've got a "kick-ass topic for their college essays."


Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of BreakupGirl.net. She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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