Today I learned that Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a play that was all progressive and feminist and liberating just a few years ago... is now taboo, because it is "not inclusive" enough of women who don't have vaginas.
Students at Mount Holyoke College, an all-women's (and female-identifying) school in Massachusetts, decided that that the play is "problematic" because it is not inclusive of trans women.
"At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman," Erin Murphy, a student on the Theatre Board, wrote in a campus-wide email.
"Gender is a wide and varied experience," Murphy continued, "one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive."
Don't expect me to cry a river. We already know that I hate the word vagina, and I've always thought The Vagina Monologues was stupid and tacky. I mean... how much do you expect me to care about a show whose most famous scene is this one:
I know for a fact that I'm hilarious and I have a great sense of humor... But somehow, I just didn't find this funny.
Admittedly, I've never seen the play -- but that is very intentional. Based on what I've read, heard, and seen on youtube, The Vagina Monologues sounds completely disempowering. As philosopher, feminist, and author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women Christina H. Sommers said at a conference in 2004,
I have so many objections to the play it is hard to know where to start. I’ll limit myself to three. 1) It is atrociously written. 2) It is viciously anti-male; and 3) and, most importantly, it claims to empower women, when in fact it makes us seem desperate and pathetic.
I think we can all agree on the quality and depth of the writing. But, as a woman, I also find this whole section gross and sad. Really? Your clit is the essence of you? What about, you know, your BRAIN? Your IDEAS? Your PASSIONS and INTERESTS and GOALS and ACCOMPLISHMENTS?
If you're really so excited to define yourself by your genitals... how are you any different from the whole oppressive patriarchy that has discounted the value of your brain and passions and goals because of your genitals?
Her lecture continued,
The Vagina Monologues features a rogues’ gallery of male brutes, sadists, child-molesters, genital mutilators, gang rapists and vile little boys. It is a poisonously anti-male play. When I wrote something to this effect in a critical op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Ensler wrote a letter in response:
To me, Bob sounds kind of creepy. But I guess he's supposed to be a hero because he "transformed" one woman's vagina and feelings about herself?
Okay, cool. But remember that time Kathryn Stockett wrote The Help, and then they made a movie about it, and everyone started writing critical articles about the "white savior trope"?
How is Bob's role in The Vagina Monologues any different? Woman is unable to love herself or her vagina. Male savior "transforms" her feelings about her feelings and her body. Bob is a hero!
This is the exact wrong approach to loving yourself and having a fulfilling sex life. As I wrote in The Orgasm Gap Is Real - But Don't Blame it on the Patriarchy, it is your responsibility to make sure you are getting what you want out of your sex life. Likewise, it is your responsibility to #ChooseBeautiful and embrace yourself. If your confidence comes from a man, it will only last as long as he does.
Beyond this, I can't speak to the anti-maleness of Ensler's play. But I can say that it is harmful to the feminist cause and female psyche to paint all males (except Bob) in a negative light.
So then there's Sommers' third point:
The latest published edition of The Monologues includes letters from excited students describing V-Day. Mary from Michigan State University tells how the rehearsal room for the play was next to a history conference:
I couldn't agree more. The Vagina Monologues is a waste of time -- and not because it's not "intersectional" enough. It's not "gross" because it has vaginas in it -- it's gross for trying to convince me that my vagina is the essence of me.
So my heart won't be broken by seeing it go bye-bye.
Nevertheless, I find the decision made by Mount Holyoke students to be ridiculous. Take a chill pill, people. The name of the show isn't The Woman Monologues. It's The Vagina Monologues. Eve Ensler never said you have to have a vagina to be a woman! She has always welcomed trans people to perform and modify her play. Moreover, in her own words:
Inclusion doesn’t come from refusing to acknowledge our distinctive experiences, and trying to erase them, in an attempt to pretend they do not exist. Inclusion comes from listening to our differences, and honoring the right of everyone to talk about their reality, free from oppression and bigotry and silencing. That’s real inclusion — to listen to different stories, with curiosity, and love, and respect, in all their particular and distinctive human individuality.
So I guess Ensler and I can agree on something.
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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