Controversy brews after Wisconsin paper censors 'Vagina Monologues' ad


A decision by a newspaper in Ashland, Wis., to censor an ad for the local production of "The Vagina Monologues" has generated harsh responses from at least one major web outlet and the theater that is staging the play.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that "Vagina" was obscured beneath five X’s in an advertisement that ran in Monday’s Ashland Daily Press.

The show is staging Thursday through Sunday at the StageNorth Theater and Bar in Washburn, Wis.

Director Kristen Sandstrom told the News Tribune that she's "been living in an ignorance bubble."

"I thought we were all comfortable talking about our vaginas. I guess we’re not," Sandstrom told the paper.

Written by Eve Ensler, "The Vagina Monologues" features various female cast members reciting monologues, which are based on interviews with hundreds of women who have shared varying experiences of sexuality.

Kate Dries, a journalist for the Gawker-owned feminist website Jezebel.com, was incensed by the ad, writing, "Note that the word 'vagina' is repeatedly X-ed out, because we live in a world where the anatomically correct word for female genitalia is dirty."

StageNorth's managing director, Scott Burshill, told the News Tribune that the Daily Press has an ad policy arrangement with the theater, where the paper grabs the information from the venue's website, creates an ad and emails a PDF to them for approval.

In Friday's email, the paper reportedly told StageNorth that it couldn't run the ad in its current version, and placed X's over the word "vagina" and removed 90 percent of the show's description by rewording it. The description was reportedly direct, but not vulgar, in its description of the sexual and physical subject matter of the show.

According to the News Tribune, Sandstrom wanted to pull the ad, but Burshill agreed to modify the copy to say, "These monologues, derived from interviews with many women, reference subjects pertaining to women’s bodies, different experiences both good and traumatic, self image and empowerment."

In an explanation from the Daily Press' publisher -- American Consolidated Media in Wisconsin -- regional operations director David Thornberry said the Daily Press is "a family newspaper," and the ad was modified because it did not want to offend elderly readers or children. A similarly named play for the male genitalia would also get X's, he added.

Thornberry noted, also, that the word "vagina" could be used in other areas of the paper, depending on its "tone and the setting." For example, it would be OK to use in a health article referencing vaginal issues.

See the full advertisement below.

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