British playwright and feminist Eve Ensler has published an article in Time defending her play, “The Vagina Monologues,” after a performance at a women’s college was canceled for being too exclusionary towards transsexuals and non-white races.
Hundreds of colleges around the world have performed “The Vagina Monologues” annually on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness for women’s issues, but last week all-women Mount Holyoke College raised eyebrows when it canceled its performance. One student explained that the play equated vaginas with womanhood in a way that was “inherently reductionist and exclusive.”
Critics who say the play narrowly defines what a woman is have her all wrong, Ensler argues. While they might think she is writing about women, Ensler says she was really just writing about vaginas.
“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 writes on Time’s website.
That focus on vaginas remains as relevant as ever, she says, because of the oppression that continues to come with them.
“Over 51% of the population has vaginas, clitorises, vulvas, and many to this day do not feel comfortable, familiar, free, or endowed with agency over them,” says Ensler.
Ensler emphasizes that she is a supporter of transsexuals, and notes that in the past there have even been all-transsexual performances of the play. She also argues that trying to silence a play entirely for not being inclusive enough is a terrible approach.
“Inclusion comes from listening to our differences, and honoring the right of everyone to talk about their reality, free from oppression and bigotry and silencing. That’s real inclusion — to listen to different stories, with curiosity, and love, and respect, in all their particular and distinctive human individuality.”
Ensler ends her column with a call for reconciliation and amity.
“We need to create a loving space for people with vaginas, and women without them, to address our oppressions, desires, and secrets and to simultaneously honor the fact that gender is not based on anatomy or genitalia.”
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