We would like to thank the Lawrence and Appleton communities for the positive response to our performances of the “Vagina Monologues” last week. We were overwhelmed by the support shown for our play and for the cause of stopping violence against women. We raised over $2500, which we will donate to the Fox Valley Sexual Assault Crisis Center.In response to a criticism of our performance that appears in this week’s Lawrentian, we would like to share a few thoughts about the “Vagina Monologues” and the role it plays in the feminist movement.
First of all, we would like to point out that Mr. Dake’s reference to the members of the Seneca Falls Convention as the “Founding Mothers” of feminism is somewhat misleading, as most scholars place the suffragist movement and other precursors to feminism in a separate category from the “new wave” of feminism that began in the 1960s and 70s. If Mr. Dake wants to critique the “Vagina Monologues” in the context of the feminist movement, his allusions to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott are unhelpful.
Most importantly, it is necessary to remember that the monologues are an artistic work (though based on real-life interviews with women) and should not be mistaken for a comprehensive feminist ideology. The premise of the “Vagina Monologues” is undoubtedly feminist, but to characterize the play as attempting to sum up the modern feminist movement is to misrepresent its intent. Modern feminism has evolved from a united political movement into a complex fabric of ideas, politics, and theories. Feminism can no longer be defined as a fundamentally political movement. Though there are political ideas implicit in the monologues, the play is not essentially political in focus. It falls under a school of modern feminist thought that aims to deconstruct language and explore perceptions of gender and sexuality.
Therefore, we do not find it a valid critique that the “Vagina Monologues” represents a backward step for feminism. The play’s author had a very specific goal in mind: she aimed to fight violence against women by breaking down the verbal taboos about women’s sexuality. She aimed to give women an awareness of their own sexuality, and from this awareness a sense of empowerment. We perform the “Vagina Monologues” to create a dialogue about topics that are ignored in mainstream social discourse, and to mobilize people to work for change. Following our performances, we asked every audience-member to stand who was a victim or knew someone who was a victim of rape or domestic abuse. After our Wednesday night performance, over three-quarters of the audience stood. Obviously, there is much work to be done. The “Vagina Monologues” has its place in the broader movement for gender equality.