Cognition & Reality

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Penile Propaganda

Filed under: Propaganda — drtone @ 9:18 am

As anyone who Googles frequently knows, searching the web can bring all kinds of surprises, not all of them pleasant. Yesterday, I was searching the web with the name of a woman I knew in Boulder years ago, someone I thought maybe had tried to reach me through Facebook under her married name. A woman with the same name, as it turns out, has written articles about the regulations regarding what has been called “female genital mutilation.” In connection with this topic, I was confronted with the fact that presentations of “The Vagina Monologues” are often (or sometimes) prefaced with a canned statement equating removal of the clitoris with amputation of the penis. If anything proves William James’s remark, “There’s nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it,” it is this claim. No reflection is required to recognize that it is manifestly false. Therefore, as its originator, Eve Ensler, undoubtedly understood, to present arguments about why and how it is false, discussing the disparate functions and relative size of the two organs, or examining cultural constructions around them, will only reinforce the statement’s counterfeit validity. It derives its power solely from being repeated. By mentioning it, I may have given it more power, and I do so knowing that, because it has already been repeated so often, and believed so often, nothing I do will change its valence one way or another. Anyone wishing to understand how propaganda works need look no further.



  1. Can I just say what a relief to find someone who astonishingly knows what they’re talking about on the internet. You does know how to bring an issue to light and make it credible. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

    Comment by Ngan Kirvin — Sunday, 9 January 2011 @ 3:03 pm | Reply

    • Sorry it took so long to respond. For some reason, this was put in “spam.” I appreciate the encouragement.

      Comment by drtone — Thursday, 13 January 2011 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

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