Seattle Times' Vagina Problem

Why they said no to the Monologues' ad.

On February 24, in honor of "V-Day," the National Council of Jewish Women's Seattle office will co-sponsor two performances of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues at the Museum of History and Industry. To publicize the event, the NCJW produced a print ad for placement in the Seattle Times, among other publications. Much to the organization's chagrin, the Times declined to run the ad unless the sponsors agreed to alter the artwork—which they refused to do. "The artwork was something we didn't feel was appropriate for our audience," says the Times' VP of advertising, Mei-Mei Chan. The inclusion of an illustrated clitoris (see above image) is likely to have given the family-owned newspaper pause—but that didn't stop publications like the Weekly or, tamer yet, the JT News (another of the event's sponsors) from running the ad. Nor did it stop Temple B'nai Torah and several area synagogues from prominently displaying a poster with the image in their places of worship. "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." Kinberg sits on the board of directors for the local NCJW chapter, whose executive director, Lauren Simonds, says the Times' refusal to run the ad "really goes against what the Vagina Monologues is all about. It just makes [the vagina] more taboo." After a version of this story appeared last week on the Daily Weekly blog, the Seattle NCJW office began receiving some anti-Semitic and misogynistic phone calls, says Simonds. Hence, the group has hired security for this Sunday's performances.

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