Vagina Monologues

So, V-Day is coming up.  For those of you who don’t know, V-Day is a day recognizing violence against women and girls, which started with Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, which is now performed at colleges across the country every year.  It’s a great thing with a great message that I performed in last year and plan on supporting this year.  But here are my problems with it:

1) The use of the word “vagina” to refer to the entirety of female genitalia.  More thoughts on that here.

2) The glorification of female-female relationships over female-male relationships.  I understand that most violence on women is enacted by men, but the introduction to one of the monologues contains the line (or at least, contained it last year; the script can change from year to year), “This monologue was based on an interview with a woman who had a good experience with a man,” followed by the note: “(This statement is not meant to be sarcastic as much as it is matter-of fact.  The laugh will actually be stronger the more straight forward the delivery.)”  Many female-female relationships are shown, and none of them are shown to be negative, including the one controversial monologue about a teenage girl who sleeps with an adult woman; the age of the girl has actually been changed to make the story more acceptable over the years.

3) The one “good experience with a man” that is shown is HIGHLY PROBLEMATIC.  The monologue is called “Because He Liked to Look at It,” and is about a woman who meets a man who insists on staring at her vagina (or, more accurately, her vulva) despite her repeated requests that he not.  I understand that this monologue is about body acceptance and things like that, but it’s always disturbed me.  The woman in question has a very pleasant experience as a result of this man’s assistance, which is great for her, but sends the message of: stepping outside of your comfort zone when you have no other choice is good.  That man should’ve stopped doing what he was doing when the woman asked him to.  There is no question about it.  He ignores her requests about her own body, and this is turned into a “good experience with a man” and not addressed at all.

I think that maybe a lot of these problems stem from the fact that the monologues, since they are based on a series of interviews, are presented as real stories rather than as stories of characters.  Because of the nature of the play, and the way it straight-out tells its audience the objective of the play and relevant statistics, it feels like the play owes its audience stories from women whom we couldn’t possibly disagree with.  Having problems with this play feels bad.

But, again, on the whole, it’s a play that’s trying to do a very important thing, and I recommend it to anyone who has an opportunity to see it.



I’ve been thinking about this recently:

Because here’s the thing.  I do think it’s important to teach distinction among different parts of the female anatomy.  It drives me crazy when people say things like, “I shave my vagina.”  It just bothers me.  Because, ow.  Mostly, I feel like it’s just a bad habit to get into, because younger people who haven’t had to learn all that anatomy yet (or who don’t have a sex ed program that will make them memorize what part’s the labia and what part’s the cervix) are more likely to have a warped view of how sex and female pleasure works.  And of how different women enjoy different things.

I was in Vagina Monologues not too long ago, and a character has a line about how unsexy the word “vagina” is, and she uses, “Darling, would you stroke my vagina?” as an example.  The use of “vagina” in that play bothers me a ton, actually, but this was the worst one for me.  I would NEVER say that.  Not even because I think it’s weird to refer to the whole general area by “vagina”, but because I think it’s seriously vague and possibly misleading.  That doesn’t tell your partner what you want AT ALL.

But, going back to the article I linked: I have less of a problem with “vagina” being used generally around Jezebel, because most of the people reading are interested in, and therefore more educated about, women’s issues.  And she makes a good point about writing humor, which is probably where a lot of the word choice in Vagina Monologue comes in, too.  I GET that.  I don’t really appreciate the author posting an article like that, but I understand her point.  I just also think it’s very important to teach specificity.