Kathryn Stroud —
The Vagina Monologues have become a regular fixture on IC’s campus. Each year, a group of women will come together to perform the same stories: like the woman who couldn’t find her clitoris and was afraid she had lost it while swimming, the angry vagina who hates tampons and “mean, cold duck lips,” and the young girl who was brutally raped and beaten for seven days. These stories make us uncomfortable, they make us cry, and, most importantly, they make us think.
Eve Ensler is the author of the monologues. She did two hundred interviews with women and developed this play out of it. Her goal is to celebrate the vagina and to illustrate all of the emotions women face when it comes to their vaginas.
Well, most women.
I co-directed the monologues this year and, as part of the rehearsal schedule for the performers, my co-director and I planned time for the performers to watch the production of The Vagina Monologues. We held a short discussion afterwards and asked the performers why we put on the show year after year. Everyone responded that we need to have these conversations on campus, conversations about vaginas. And yes, before I state anything further, I agree that the primary purpose of the monologues is important regardless of any demographic: celebrate vaginas.
But my love for The Vagina Monologues does not come without criticism. It was created to start a dialogue, and now it is time to continue the conversation.
At IC, the majority of the audience is students, if the majority of the performers are students, if even the directors are students, maybe we should be hearing about female college students’ relationship with their vaginas.
What about the fact that one in four women is raped on college campuses? And the fact that eighty percent of those women know who attacks them? There isn’t a monologue about that, and there should be. Or about the woman who has a one night stand and regrets it or loves it or whatever. Or the woman who is so unaware that she has a vagina, who never wants sex or anything like that – like The Flood for college students.
I would love to see IC perform a “college version” of the monologues. That isn’t to say that it is simply about American college students, but it would be interesting to see it be a global play with a focus on college students and the emotions and experiences female college students have.
Of course, there has been other criticism over the years. There was the expected criticism; many conservative groups criticized the monologues for “celebrating and supporting” lust and lesbianism. And then there was also criticism from the left. Many liberal groups found that the monologues focused too much on rape and other brutal sexual encounters and, as feminist Wendy McElroy believes, the play “equates heterosexual love with violence . . . A play that claims to unveil the truth about vaginas but, somehow, overlooks the salutary role men play in most women’s sexuality has no credibility.”
Regardless of the criticism, there is one fact that cannot be ignored: Eve Ensler has us talking. And for that, the woman has props in my book.