Students at Washington University in St. Louis have erased the “vagina” part of The Vagina Monologues — instead calling it The [Blank] Monologues — in order to be inclusive of other genitals.
“In adapting this show to become more gender inclusive, this year’s audience members, regardless of how they identified, were able to more strongly connect with the impactful monologues,” stated a piece in the college newspaper, The Student Life. “Thirty performers spoke 20 different pieces, all centering around sexuality, sexual violence, body image and more.”
The piece further explains that “having a vagina and being a woman are not mutually exclusive, and lessons learned during the performance are important for everyone, no matter their gender identity.”
“By . . . rebranding from ‘Vagina Monologues’ to ‘[Blank] Monologues,’ this performance was welcoming to a more diverse group of viewers,” the piece continued. “This move was deliberate and effective, as more students than ever felt deeply affected by the words spoken.”
The show took place on February 15 and 16.
Washington University is far from the only school where students have taken issue with The Vagina Monologues. In 2015, Whitman College replaced its performances of VM with Breaking Ground Monologues. Also in 2015, Mount Holyoke College — an all-women’s school — canceled their performance of it altogether on the grounds that it was not inclusive to women without vaginas. In 2016, American University did the same thing for the same reason. The same year, Southwestern University in Texas canceled theirs for a different reason: Because a white lady wrote it, and that meant it would automatically not be inclusive to women of other races.
In fact, the performance has become so controversial that its author, Eve Ensler, addressed the issue in an interview with Time in 2015:
‘The Vagina Monologues’ never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. 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.
Ensler is absolutely correct. Whether you identify as a woman or as a man, having a vagina is, in fact, a unique experience. Yes — in case you didn’t know this, there are things that you will experience with a vagina that you will not experience without a vagina, and VM is a work of art that’s meant to be centered around those unique experiences. How is this offensive? After all, art as a whole is made up of many different creative works that center around many different sorts of experiences. If you have a problem with VM because it doesn’t encompass every sort of experience, then you must have a problem with every work of art — because I don’t know of a single one that doesn’t tackle only a particular issue or subject matter.
People who identify as women but do not have vaginas absolutely deserve acceptance and respect. However, this performance doesn’t have to be about them any more than Starry, Starry Night has to also be about the sunshine during daytime. As I wrote in a column when American University canceled its performance of VM, “Complaining because a show centered around a specific experience doesn’t also include your experience makes about as much sense as walking into a gynecologist’s office and demanding a prostate exam.”
Make no mistake: There is certainly some value in a performance that encompasses different aspects of sexuality. This does not, however, mean that one that’s centered around vaginas isn’t still worth being performed as it is. After all, there are still people out there who do have vaginas, and having a performance that allows those vagina-havers to relate to others’ vagina-having experiences certainly has some value as well.
This story was previously covered in an article in The College Fix.