Editorial, Opinion

EDITORIAL: “The Vagina Monologues” will halt the progression of feminism on campus

Boston University student group VAGMO+ recently put on a production of “The Vagina Monologues.” In essence, its members describe the organization as an inclusive feminist group who use their platform to allow comfortable discussion of natural topics that are unfairly stigmatized. However, according to VAGMO+’s actions, that inclusivity is in name alone. 

In alignment with original 1996 playwright Eve Ensler’s arcane conceptualization of womanhood, VAGMO+’s “The Vagina Monologues” failed to include a sufficient performance about trans women. 

There was one monologue that attempted to do the trans experience justice, but among the cacophony of cisgender stories and focus on genitalia more than womanhood, it failed to be heard. It entirely focused on the ultimate goal of having a vagina — and fully ignored the possibility of being a woman without one.

It is 2020, and the group’s sole concern should not be lessening the discomfort around vaginas. Instead, it should focus its attention on how it claims to promote inclusivity while endorsing a cultural icon who unjustly generalized women to the point of exclusion. 

In order to show “The Vagina Monologues” on campus, VAGMO+ most likely pays for the rights to do so — funds which ultimately end up in Ensler’s hands. She claims that she rejects non-intersectional feminism because one cannot think critically about violence against women otherwise. Yet, she also refuses to update the play to reflect the fact that gender is an identity and not an immutable, biological fact. 

That is the sort of essentialist feminism VAGMO+ supported during this weekend’s production. It is hypocritical for the group to portray itself as an organization that is spearheading a more inclusive feminist movement on campus. It is abundantly clear, and has been proven over and over, that women are so much more than their genitalia. 

The work “The Vagina Monologues” is doing now is at best inefficient. Each performance pulls society closer to the diluted white feminist movement of the 1990s. Women, on aggregate, do not suffer solely on the basis of their gender. Ensler, if this is about violence against all women, why do you not talk about how black trans women are killed at disproportionate rates? Stop exploiting something you refuse to accept as true so that millennials and Generation Z will watch your show. 

Ensler was right when she said one play cannot be everything. So, VAGMO+, do better and stop using her work. The organization does not need to support “The Vagina Monologues” in order to teach people about female anatomy or make those with vaginas feel more comfortable about their bodies. Again, a vagina is not the defining characteristic of womanhood. 

What about the trans men who have vaginas? Shouldn’t they have been on stage alongside the rest of the cast? 

It’s absolutely not enough to just include trans women, non-binary individuals and non-gender-conforming in production or in the cast. A couple of perfunctory performances about their lived experiences is the traumatic equivalent of erasing their existences. The idiosyncrasies of their lives cannot be discounted. 

And since they already have been, VAGMO+ has just done itself a disservice. If the organization’s aim is to destigmatize, it’s failed to do that by not openly and proudly discussing the variety of stories around biological and symbolic vaginas. 

It is fortunate that Yoni Ki Baat, a more diverse adaptation of the monologues, is coming to campus in March to address the intersectionality of womanhood. But what its existence hides is the underlying problem — that the feminism on-campus is a white, cisgendered one. 

A second show is not an adequate solution to the problem of “The Vagina Monologues” being a serious case of internalized misogyny. VAGMO+ will stop itself in its own tracks if it continues to share this version of “feminism” with the rest of campus. 

 

4 Comments

  1. I wonder if the “editors” who wrote this piece were even present at this year’s Vagina Monologues performance. I will be the first to say that Eve Ensler’s script is a flawed piece of feminist literature which excludes many of the experiences of women. Actually, that’s not true. The DIRECTORS of this production will be the first to say this. In fact, if you had been to the show, you would know that this was discussed before a single monologue was performed. This year’s production added to an ongoing conversation surrounding the Vagina Monologues. It addressed both the importance and failures of earlier feminism. It seems that what this anonymous writer would prefer is for a blanket denouncement of Eve Ensler’s work. But to take away a piece that can be so empowering for so many people would be a disservice. Instead of tearing down the important work that has been done by the flawed feminists before them, the Vagmo+ team decided to supplement it with YKB which is not just a token to cover up the problems of VagMo but a production to more properly represent the varieties of experiences had by women on our campus. To present it as a coverup, as you did in this piece, is so deeply disrespectful of the queer people and women of color who will have a chance to be heard in it. They are not an afterthought here and for you to suggest that they are says more about you than it does about VagMo+
    Also, this production raised $4,000 for Women’s Lunch Place and sold artwork on behalf of Freedom Through the Arts Collective, two worthy causes. They did not pay for the rights to this show but used it to raise money and awareness and perform powerful activism that is being felt by real women.
    I encourage you to open yourself up to the same critical discussions that were had at this weekend’s production of the Vagina Monologues instead of anonymously tearing down the women who put in their time and hard work to empower others. While the production was not fully inclusive, it never actually claimed to be. Moreover, the people who directed, teched, and performed it were proud to put their names on the production. That’s more than I can say for the author(s) of this piece.

    • Hi Kaelyn,

      A quick look at our editorial page will show that every editorial is written under “editors,” as the piece reflects the opinion of the editorial board, more than one of whom were present at your show as you questioned. Thank you for your thorough response; we welcome a Letter to the Editor on the subject sent to [email protected]om if you’d like to formally publish your thoughts.

      -Victoria Bond, Spring 2020 Editor-in-Chief

      • Just to clarify, I was in no way involved with this production. I support it wholeheartedly as a tool for empowerment.

  2. This “editorial” is just full of inaccurate facts that are clearly assumptions made by a team that did NOT witness the show firsthand. How many of the editors bought tickets to The Vagina Monologues? Did you hear Bruna Giampietro and Christina Bissereth make an announcement at the beginning of the show acknowledging the well-known issues with the piece? Yes, VagMo is outdated. Nobody is pretending it isn’t. Your critiques are well agreed upon within the feminist discourse surrounding this show.

    Yoni Ki Baat is an extension of the VAGMO+ program that is meant to highlight the struggles of women who are underrepresented by Ensler’s piece. How can you make an assumption that YKB is being used to “hide” an underlying problem before you actually hear the monologues that are being written by real women of color and queer women on campus? Maybe it’s actually highlighting the problem. You are diminishing the power of these women’s real work before you even hear it (supposing that you actually buy tickets to that piece, FreeP editors!)

    Also, obviously trans representation is incredibly important in modern feminist discourse. Were you in the audition room? Do you think a plethora of trans people showed up? Directors cannot force people with certain identities to show up to auditions to fill a quota that the Editorial Board sees as necessary for the show to be okay.

    There are things that are factually incorrect about this piece which is concerning considering you are all trying to be student journalists. Fake news is rampant in our culture right now and you should be trying to stop that. VagMo does not create profit for Eve Ensler. The piece is produced royalty-free and all profits went to charity.

    I want a response to this question: How many of your editors went to The Vagina Monologues? And we can go from there.