Here's a reprint of a long out of print post I wrote on January 23, 2004 about a controversy in Amherst:
I was on my way to purchase my three morning papers (the Springfield Republican and then depending on who has the most interesting headlines, the Globe or the Herald, the New York Times or USA Today) when what should my eyes perceive but taped on a bus stop a sign reading, AMHERST WANTS VAGINA. Well, there's no doubt that's true, what with Amherst being a college town with thosands of testosterone-crazed college boys, not to mention a sizeable posse of lesbians, all of whom are no doubt at least somewhat interested in that subject. But why put up a sign stating the obvious?
On closer examination I discovered that the sign was actually a call for Amherst residents to gather on the Town Common on Wednesday at high noon to protest the plans for the local high school to put on a performance of the controversial play, The Vagina Monologues on February 13th. The phrasing of the sign struck me as odd. If the purpose of the sign was to rally opponents of the play, instead of saying AMHERST WANTS VAGINA shouldn't it have read, AMHERST DOESN'T WANT VAGINA? All I know about The Vagina Monologues is that it is some sort of feminist rant, but having never seen it I hesitate to pass judgement on whether it is appropriate or not for high schoolers. In any case, I can still tell when the circus is in town, so I was determined to attend the anti-Vagina rally for it's sheer entertainment value if nothing else. Besides, maybe some pro-Vagina supporters would show up and a big cat fight would ensue, with pulled hair, ripped clothes, wrestling in the muddy snow and everything!
When I was enroute to the rally I saw there were other anti-Vagina signs hung up on street lights and bus stops, although it is hard for any single sign to stand out since all of the posts and stops are larded with notices, one on top of the other. Some people think such signage is ugly, but I don't. I believe it is the proof of a healthy democracy, and I think one of the symptoms of how unhealthy the political climate is in places like Springfield is that you don't see much postering. In a community that's intellectually healthy and politically vibrant, people will have posters they want to hang up.
In the midst of the raging controversy over the play, the Unitarian Meetinghouse near the Common reminds everyone to be nice.
But high noon comes and goes, yet the virginal snow on the pristine Common remains untrampled by Vagina protesters of either stripe. What happened to the big rally?
I wander about in vain looking for the rally, when I overhear a man and woman on the common twice say the word "vagina." I figure I have either eavesdropped on a very personal conversation or they have something to do with the protest. Risking embarrassment, I approach them and ask, "Excuse me, but are you protesting The Vagina Monologues?"
"No," the man replied, "we're newspaper journalists."
I told them I wouldn't hold it against them. It turns out they were Larry Kelley from The Amherst Bulletin and Isabel Lyman from The Hampshire Gazette. Like me, they were there to cover the rally. I ask them if they know why the protest failed to occur. Kelley, fresh from an appearance on TV's number one rated political talk show The O'Reilly Factor where he discussed the Vagina controversy with host Bill O'Reilly, tells me that he believes the signs for the rally were a hoax. He thinks that the signs were put up by Vagina supporters, hoping to embarrass their opponents when no one showed up. If so, that might explain the sign's mixed message.
I told them that I was unsure of my own position on the controversy, as I didn't know enough about the specific dialogue in the play. They told me that the play was filled with references to "the c-word" which I assume meant the word "cunt." I hate it when people talk cute like that, as when people say "the n-word." It makes me want to yell, "Don't you mean the word NIGGER?" Anyway, they went on to tell me it was a play I would be embarrassed to take my mother to. But then they never knew my sainted mother, who after raising a kid like me was immune from astonishment for the rest of her life.
What Kelley did tell me which I found disturbing concerned the events surrounding the performance. Apparently the play is just the climax of a week's worth of "awareness" activities leading up to "V-Day", activities which sounded to me like a lot of propaganda. I mean it's one thing to show the play and let people make up their own minds about it, but don't spend a week in advance brainwashing the kids about how they should respond to it.
But if there is going to be any protesting against the play, then it was not held that day, probably because, as Kelley said, no one involved with the anti-Vagina movement had anything to do with it. So the whole thing was a big dud, and ultimately it came down to just a plain old case of dirty politics. Shoot, I could've just gone to Springfield if that's what I was interested in covering.
Recently I came across this old website from the 2003 Springfield municipal election and saw there was a poll of who from Masslive would make the best mayor. The best man won.
Which MassLive Forum contributor would make a good Mayor?
Tom Devine 37
There's a funny and smart cartoon in this month's Reason about Ayn Rand:
To read the whole comic click here.
I like this video about the Amherst Survival Center "Trash to Treasures" furniture sale.
Paolo turned me on to this one minute of wisdom.
Flag and wreath in front of Memorial Hall at UMass yesterday.
Odd sculpture of plywood and sleds in front of Northampton's Urban Outfitter. I guess it's supposed to be a Christmas tree of some sort.
When I saw this pile of leaves it made me wish I was a kid again so I could dive right into it.
The season of pumpkins has passed.
Getting way out there in Northampton last week.