Adam Dupuis's picture

Is The Vagina Monologue Transphobic?

I remember the Vagina Monologues being something that I could not see myself listening to or paying money to see.  I don;t have one, don't need to touch one, but I understand the power of the play.  It first came to being in 1996, the year I graduated from college and the year I definitely defined myself as someone that had no desire in the vagina.

I could understand women talking about their bodies, being happy to celebrate their bodies and all of their parts.  To take ownership of one's body.  Heck, I was doing that myself at the same time. 

 

Each of the monologues deals with an aspect of the feminine experience, touching on matters such as sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the various common names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. - wikipedia.com

 

At any time you are able to talk freely about your body, experience your own body, and sometimes even talk about the hardships of being who you are, there is an enlightenment that occurs. Once again, the Vagina Monologues was not for me, but I could understand the attention it received, the movement it created, and the reaffirmation it gave women.

Now, the piece, in it's 20th year is coming under fire and I am not sure I agree with why.

 

The Vagina Monologues is “antiquated” because it suggests “that in order to be a woman, you must have a vagina,” an American University student has claimed.

Kendall Baron, a junior and a staffer at the Women’s Initiative, criticized the famous feminist play in an email first obtained by Campus Reform. The play “represents a binary representation of gender,” she wrote redundantly.

So instead of performing the famous feminist play, the Women’s Initiative solicited new monologues that “make this a place for all bodies regardless of gender identity.”

The Vagina Monologues, once widely embraced, has fallen out of favor beyond American University.

For the past three years, students at Whitman College decided to abandon The Vagina Monologues in favor of a “Breaking Ground” show where students performed works discussing their own bodies.

Likewise, last year, the all-women’s Mount Holyoke College cancelled the Vagina Monologues because had become “increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive,” one student wrote to the campus, explaining the Theatre Board’s decision.

Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, wrote last year that students’ rejection of her play surprised her.

The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman,” she wrote in Time. “It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.” - heast.com

 

It's not called the woman monologues. Is it? It's about having a certain body part and being able to understand what that means to you on the individual basis.

This is not the first time the monologues have come under fire.  Lizzie Crocker wrote in thedailybeast.com her disagreement with Mount Holyoke College not allowing a performance of The Vagina Monologues after complaints that it was transphobic. Her statement was basically, "when did artistic censorship become a good feminist look?"

 

I’m not a fan of the anti-male narrative in The Vagina Monologues, nor do I agree with the play’s implication that a woman’s mere utterance of the words “vagina” and “cunt” empowers her. For these reasons, the show is indeed reductionist. It’s also outdated, primarily because it was written 20 years ago, though Camille Paglia denounced Ensler back in 2000 for embodying a “painfully outmoded branch of feminism.”

...

But I am baffled by the argument that the play is “blatantly transphobic and treats race and homosexuality questionably,” as one student put it, and should thus be censored on campus in its original form. (Mount Holyoke is reworking the show to be more trans-inclusive, and to address its various “problems” with “other identities.”) - thedailybeast.com

 

Wait, they said cunt in the play?  Maybe I should have gone and seen it.  Empowerment was one of the major reasons the Vagina Monologues was compiled.  To give women power.  Excuse me.  I guess I said that wrong.  It was to give women with vaginas power. 

 

Ensler wrote the piece to "celebrate the vagina". Ensler states that in 1998, the purpose of the piece changed from a celebration of vaginas and femininity to a movement to stop violence against women.

The play opened at HERE Arts Center in New York City on 3 October 1996 with a limited run that ran through November. The play gained popularity through a word of mouth campaign that culminated with a performance at Madison Square Garden in 2001, which featured Melissa Etheridge and Whoopi Goldberg performing segments of the play.

In 2004, the first all-transgender performance of The Vagina Monologues was held. The monologues were read by eighteen notable transgender women, and a new monologue revolving around the experiences and struggles of transgender women was included. - wikipedia.com

 

Did I read that right?  They had an all-transgender performance?  But that was 12 years ago.  Transgender women are different now than they were back in 2004, yes?  Did these 18 women not prepresent their community well?  Did they not think before they took part in this West Hollywood event that would be known as VDAY 2004?

 

Deep Stealth Productions presented the V-Day 2004 Worldwide Campaign event for Los Angeles on Saturday, February 21st. In cooperation with the author, internationally-known playwright Eve Ensler, and under the auspices of Jane Fonda, this benefit performance featured the first ever transgender cast of “The Vagina Monologues,” and included a new monologue written by Eve especially for this event.

This large-scale, mainstream event was a historic opportunity for the trans community to present ourselves in a positive, contributing light.The performance showcased notable trans women reading Eve’s beautiful monologues about the experiences of womanhood and the reclaiming of self through loving and respecting our bodies. The event also featured artistic, literary and musical contributions from trans women from around the country. Among the many women participating were: Calpernia Addams, Becky AllisonMarci Bowers, Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Donna Rose, Gwen Smith, Leslie Townsend, and many, many more…The V-Day Los Angeles event was held in Hollywood on Saturday evening, February 21, 2004 in the Silver Screen Theater at the beautiful Pacific Design Center.

A special keepsake publication for V-Day LA 2004 was produced as a remembrance of this wonderful event, and a documentary of the event, entitled “Beautiful Daughters“, aired on LOGO. - andreajames.com

 

What are your thoughts?  I'm a male and I have a penis so I am a little out of the debate possibly.  I know we do have some women that read Instinct and we as well have some transgender followers. 

Is the Vagina Monologues anti-trans?

Is it just a play about knowing your vagina, celebrating your vagina and understanding your vagina?

 

h/t:    heast.com  thedailybeast.com  wikipedia.com andreajames.com