The annual spring performance of “The Vagina Monologues” wrapped up on Sunday Feb. 19. Often hailed as a feminist play among the campus community and noted as a form of “sexual revolution” by some reviewers, the fact that this play relies purely on vaginas to represent femininity was deemed close-minded.
After participating in Geneseo’s performance of “The Vagina Monologues” for the third year in a row, I think it’s important to note the complex social issues we face today in relation to the play.
“The Vagina Monologues” was a fantastic play for the time it was published. The Stanford Review notes that the 1990s w a time of masculinity and Eve Ensler—the creator of the play—wanted to use art to end violence against women and to break the taboo against talking about vaginas.
She even established V-Day on Valentine’s Day, a day meant to spread awareness regarding violence against women, which often culminates in a performance of the show.
The play’s individual stories stand alone from one another, however, and this key aspect could provide an opportunity to update the inclusivity of the play.
There is only one monologue regarding transgender women in the show. This inclusion is wonderful and tells the true story of some transgender women—but it is also controversial. The duo in “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” are unable to see themselves as women until they get vaginas at the end of the monologue. It’s a form of completion for them.
Though this is the narrative for some trans women and it should not be completely shunned, not all women or trans women have or desire to have vaginas. Not all women need to have a vagina to see themselves as women.
Without the inclusion of a monologue addressing the gender spectrum, it reinforces the idea that women are only women if they have a vagina.
“The Vagina Monologues” says what it’s about right in the title: vaginas. The stories are true tales from the women Ensler interviewed, but they all deal with aspects of having a vagina and are not necessarily what it means to be a woman.
Asking us to change these monologues is not an option; they’re powerful and have paved the way for countless viewers to open their eyes to the violence that women experience. Ensler defended her work in Time, saying, “I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina,” but she added the monologue “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” after a group of trans women performed her play.
If she has added monologues in the past, I don’t understand why she can’t add more in the future to create a more inclusive play.
Today, we need more support for all women rather than just women who specifically have vaginas. While her play was a beacon of hope in the 90s and has done incredible work for bringing awareness to violence against women, Ensler’s message should be expanded to present a more diverse story that will give hope to a new generation of women and girls.