For the first time since I arrived at Yale in 2003, no group of students will perform the Vagina Monologues during V-Week. It is an unfortunate oversight, to be sure. When Even Ensler first presented the Monologues in 1996, they were truly revolutionary, and as such, deserve our respect. The Vagina Monologues gave us a vocabulary to discuss our vaginas, and a forum to recognize our shared experiences and fears.
That being said, however, the Vagina Monologues make me uneasy, and I have always been apprehensive about sharing my sentiments publicly. Indeed, I have been complicit in perpetuating the problem I have with how we discuss the Vagina Monologues--which is that I find in self-proclaimed feminist circles the Vagina Monologues often stagnates rather than promotes dialogue. Talking about vaginas is important, no doubt, and the Vagina Monologues occupy a critical space, giving the voiceless a voice, the uncomfortable comfort.
I am not sure, though, that I want to talk about my vagina in the same way that men praise their penises. I should certainly have the opportunity and the social freedom to shout and rant about my vagina until I'm blue in the face without shame or condemnation; however, without more sophisticated, dialogue surrounding cultural manifestations of sexuality, it simplifies complex issues.
I worry that in conversations I have had after watching the monologues, both here and elsewhere, that many women tacitly accept that the male ideal of sexuality and seek to emulate it rather than change it. Indeed, I feel similarly about issues surrounding work and family: the acceptance of the male ideal of work to the detriment of family is not an inherent good.
I want to acknowledge the passing of a year at Yale without the Vagina Monologues, without an important tribute to a watershed moment of the intersection of theater, activism, and feminism, with great sadness. My criticism is, perhaps, more about the rhetoric surrounding the monologues rather than about some intrinsic quality of the monologues themselves. In the next week, however, when women the world over are reclaiming cunt, orgasming on stage and lamenting about the gynocologist, maybe we can all try to envision incarnations of sexuality that empower us. The Vagina Monologues should open discussion rather than close it.