“The Vagina Monologues” is a play written by Eve Ensler in the 1990’s. This play has been translated into 48 languages and been performed in over 140 countries. And everyone should see it, at least one time.
It’s a series of monologues performed by women talking about, well, vaginas.
The play discusses the power dynamics between men and women and the unfortunate circumstance of women being abused. It addresses issues of rape and domestic violence as well as sexual insecurities and the impossible expectations that are set for women generally. It has been considered a forum for women to come together and be empowered by telling and hearing these stories.
It’s also an opportunity for men to think about things they usually don’t have to think about. Hopefully, the play motivates men to support the cause of eradicating violence and abuse against women.
All the monologues are pretty juicy and detailed. Some college campuses ban the play for precisely that reason. But that should make it more of an incentive to see it. If anyone is sitting in the audience when it debuts on our campus and feels very uncomfortable while they’re watching it, that’s fantastic. It’s part of the point, really – the stories shared in “The Vagina Monologues” are not part of what polite society has deemed “comfortable subject matter.” Ensler’s script covers topics that are disquieting to say the least – but they are based on situations that are real and occur regularly, on situations that must be addressed.
However, the show is not above critique.
There are some things that bother me about “The Vagina Monologues.” However, I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from seeing the play. I merely wish to start a preemptive dialogue with you. I want you to talk to your roommates and your classmates and speak up on all of your interweb forums. I want you to go and see the show. I want you to tell me that I’m completely wrong, or entirely correct, or that you’ve come to a completely different conclusion. For thousands of years, vaginas have been fairly divisive things to think about. That will probably always be the case.
My first problem with the play when I saw it the first time was the perpetuation of stereotypes about women in minority groups. In the script, certain monologues have stars next to them. These are the monologues that Ensler instructs need to be performed by women of color. These monologues are some of the more graphic stories about rape and abuse. This could communicate to especially white audiences that the paler your skin, the more likely you are to have bad and intrusive experiences when it comes to sexuality. This is problematic if the script’s instructions are heeded when the play is performed.
It’s counterproductive for Ensler to perpetuate racial stereotypes while trying to address and diminish violence towards women. The two problems are connected in ways that the show addresses poorly.
Problem number two is not the discussion of vaginas but the association with the personality of a woman with her genitalia. There is one monologue that states, “I am my vagina, my vagina is me.” Learning to love every part of one’s body is important. But I would be unwilling to declare that I am my vagina anymore than I am my big toe or my brown eyes. The reduction of women and their souls and personalities to their genitalia would work if women didn’t also have brains, which they do. I also feel like this leaves out some women who consider themselves transgender. This community is far too often overlooked, especially on this campus.
But my main critique of “The Vagina Monologues” has little to do with the play itself. It’s the fact that we still have a need to perform it. In so many ways, the show is outdated. There should have been something written at some point up to now that is better, more inclusive, more interesting. There must have been something written that is committed to the same cause and has the same kind of following.
A friend of mine was putting up a flyer for the tryouts on campus. Someone came up to her and said, “Does that really say vagina? That’s so offensive, why would you ever put up a sign like that?”
I’ve read about the college girls who participate in the performances of the play on their various campuses nationwide. They talk so much about how saying the word, “vagina” in public in front of hundreds of people is empowering. I thought that was silly until I’ve begun to hear the reaction of the community to the play that is in the works for our campus. Apparently, people still think it’s taboo.
The issues the show addresses are applicable in every way to our community – a community where one in three women are raped every year. Things change all of the time, but it’s hard to argue they get that much better. For this reason, of course, “the show must go on.”
Felicia Joy – Opinion’s Writer