Vagina Monologues idiotic
First, a couple of disclaimers. I am not some disgusted prude; while I don't exactly relish hearing vivid descriptions of pubic hair, I can count Clerks and Chasing Amy among my favorite comedies, and four years of living in a single-sex dorm did wonders for my vocabulary. I also was generally impressed with the two Vagina Monologues productions I've been to-one two years ago and one last Friday. The girls (women?) involved were all vibrant, appropriately funny, or somber as their roles demanded (more on that in a second). Additionally, they were completely unafraid of speaking to a sold-out Kresge Auditorium.
Now, with that being said: I think the Vagina Monologues is idiotic. It's exhibitionism as liberation, silly genital-worship as ideology, vulgarity as therapy. As part of the larger "V-Day" celebration, it's an attempt to hijack a well-meaning Hallmark holiday and turn our minds from thoughts of romance and love to meditations on rape and sexual abuse. In addition to this gross usurpation, the Vagina Monologues tries to manage the bizarre juxtaposition of crude humor with jarring tales of sexual violence. I can handle one or the other, but the awful and unspeakably grave issue of rape is trivialized when placed next to a profane diatribe against tampons.
The play's rape double-standard is in fact one of its most disturbing aspects. In the tastefully titled "The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could," a sexual abuse victim recites the tale of her teenage lesbian sexual initiation by a beautiful 20-something woman. After sneaking the girl away from her mother and getting her intoxicated, the older woman has her way with the apparently grateful girl. The story of a 16-year-old being rescued from male violence by a predatory lesbian may strike some as a little odd, but the real story of this piece is a lot worse.
Up until 2002, when a few university officials became understandably queasy, the girl in this story was 13. Also excised was a line of the girl's on her sex with the older woman: "if it was rape, it was a good rape. I'll never need to rely on a man." A "good rape?" If one of the genders had been different, if this were a 24-year-old man having sex with an alcohol-fueled 13-year-old girl, would this play be viable anywhere in America?
The show's overt left-wing ideology also sets up some interesting hypocrisies. Notably absent from this year's show was the burqa bit, when lights were shut off and darkness reined while performers explained the complete sensory deprivation an Islamic burqa imposed on a woman.
I'm curious here: wasn't the man who did away with the Taliban and their burqas the former governor of the state one performer sneered at because it banned the universal human right to buy a vibrator? In the same vein, was there any need for the monologue about an Iraqi woman's suffering in the recent Persian Gulf War? I'm pretty sure the Pentagon didn't explicitly target her because she had a vagina.
More importantly, is there any sense in pointing out the occasional failings of a largely successful attempt to fight the most humane war in history? Until a few months ago, no one had ever heard of a "rape room." Bush's war liberated the 12 million woman of Iraq from a despot who used sexual assault as an instrument of state policy. Can Eve Ensler claim to have done anything even half as good for the women of the world?
I also found it ironic that Dean Hazlett's monologue was about the beauty of childbirth and the awe the speaker felt on witnessing the arrival of a new life. Aren't these women supposedly so awed by their role as life-givers the same ones who will soon be marching on Washington to defend their right to end that new life at their discretion?
For all of the supposed political incorrectness and freedom of the play, the Vagina Monologues stands out for the euphemisms it does use. Before the famous orgasm scene, one of the play's directors came out and said something inane like, "Sex workers have rich and varied stories to tell." Sex workers? For a play that prides itself on its frankness, how about using a more morally condemnatory and more accurate word, like, say, prostitute?
Ultimately, the Vagina Monologues is a spectacle of pointless vulgarity. I'm all for ending sexual abuse and promoting gender equality. But simply chanting "vagina" (over 100 times in the play's two hours I'm told) doesn't liberate anyone. If feminists have nothing better to do than incite a room full of upper-middle class college girls to yell "cunt," then maybe the Vagina Monologues is most notable as a demonstration of the complete irrelevance of modern feminism.
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