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Negotiating The Vagina Monologues with Intersectional Feminism

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March 3, 2014

510727e2bdbfb.imageIt’s that time of year – when college campuses and communities host The Vagina Monologues. This is the third year I have been involved with my Choice USA chapter’s production of The Vagina Monologues.  The Vagina Monologues is the play written by Eve Ensler, inspired by interviews with over 200 women about anatomy, sexual violence and intimate partner abuse, sex work, birth, and other issues among women*.

Unlike other years, I am feeling more and more conflicted about my chapter’s involvement with the play and V-Day. This scathing and incredibly poignant critique of the play has still stuck with me the last few weeks. Basically, Eve Ensler’s cissexist, white feminist point of view has been inadequate for feminists everywhere. This is something my chapter members and I have discussed extensively since my involvement with the production, and we make it a point to create a conversation about it. The problems of the play are widely known among the young feminists I know outside of campus as well, and yet we still produce it, year-after-year.

One of the reasons why we continue to produce The Vagina Monologues is because of its status as a classic within the community. Parents bring their children, faculty join students and friends come out to the show. The audience laughs and cries for an hour and fifteen minutes, and it’s a fantastic feeling to see 120 faces moved by the play, knowing that my chapter had put so much hard work into it.

The biggest reason why our chapter has not given up on the Vagina Monologues is that it raises literally thousands of dollars for our local domestic violence shelter. Not only are we providing resources, but we are getting their name out there to the community. Our local shelter has an undisclosed address and is not visible to the community — therefore events like The Vagina Monologues get the word out there.

Logistically, we have asked: what other benefit can we do that will be equivalent, yet more progressive than the Vagina Monologues? They are not easy to find, and there remains the struggle of convincing the community that this alternative play is an improvement. People expect the Vagina Monologues.

I feel better knowing that we have made some changes in the direction of the play to make it less problematic, such as including the monologue about trans women in the play, “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy.” In addition, we have had our most diverse cast in years, with women of color and queer women leading the way. We have also put deaf women as a priority in the monologues, including switching the speaking role for the signing role in one of the monologues, in order to put the woman using American Sign Language front and center for her own unique performance.

These changes are helpful, yet feel artificial when looking at the bigger picture. It still doesn’t break down the real problems with V-Day or the actual text of the monologues.

The ultimate solution is a widely available alternative to the Vagina Monologues. I am as outraged as the next, but the play’s text is unlikely to make a radical change. My question is: Who will be the young feminist to write the Intersectional Monologues?


*The Vagina Monologues allows women-identified folks, including trans women, in the play.

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