I've been cast in my school's production of the Vagina Monologues. I'm really glad to be a part of it because it contains a strong anti-violence against women message, and brings certain women's issues back to campus. It's put on by the theatre school, not the women's centre.
However, I'm also sort of upset about it. The whole play uses incorrect terminology for women's anatomy (a lot of times they say vagina to mean vulva). We're potentially giving a whole set of people incorrect information. There is also one monologue that includes a rape of a 13 year old girl by another woman, that is depicted as a positive event. Now, I'm not as opposed to this because once again, it's put on by the theatre school and, push coming to shove, it's "just a play." Just a chance to go out and have some fun, and raise some money for a good cause.
Is there any way I can balance this out? Should I push to have an insert included in the program with a diagram of female genitalia and an explanation that the play uses incorrect terminology but is still to be enjoyed as a play, and about the clitoris as the female sex organ? If that doesn't go over well, should I get some people to distribute something like this anyway, in effect disrupting my own performance?
Please help. I don't know what to do with this one.
(I don't recall any of those monologues including a rape scene like that. Which one is it? You don't mean the one where the young women has an elder female partner?)
That terminology problem is one of my two big problems with The Vagina Monologues. But it sounds to me like you've hit upon an excellent possible solution for that. I think a diagram enclosed in the program is a fantastic idea.
I'm talking about The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could. Some people would call that child-loving, although it's a)illegal and b)the older woman gives the younger one drinks and "seduces" her. Picture the scene with a man and it's easier to conceptualize as rape.
I wonder how well the diagram would go over with the organizers.
Just out of curiosity, what's your other concern about the play?
Yeah, I figured that's the one you got. Lot of powerful stuff in there, though.
And I'd say it's iffy. I don't know that the monologue really treats it as a positive, save that the protagonist HAD been a victim of intense sexual violence before and so ANY sexual experience which was enjoyable for her, about HER pleasure, was totally noninvasive and wanted, was positive for her. If I recall correctlly, the age of the other woman isn't made clear either, save that she has a job. Too, that girl in that piece is nothing close to what one'd call the average 13-year-old. Context has a lot to do with these instances. I know I can say for myself that the earlier age at which I felt sexually ready, and did just fine with partnership before many of my peers did, had a whole lot to do with how many adult responsibilities and burdens I already carried, about how quickly I'd grown up well before then.
My other concern is that I don't like how the whole piece basically makes identity with genitalia all about violence in some regard, about defining one's feelings about one's genitals to so much of how others see or (mis)treat them.
If I may post a link to the article Betty Dodson wrote about the Vagina Monologues and her problems with it, it clarified a lot about how I felt about the Vagina Monologues - I always remember it when V-day ramps up on my university campus. It's called V-Day, Inc..
FYI, Miz Scarlet was the person to directed me to the article in the first place.
Yes, that's one of the articles that enlightened me. It's included in the wikipedia article on the VMons.
I'm not doing the coochi snorcher monologue. I'm not nearly "black enough" for a role like that. I've been cast for The Vagina Workshop, the one Betty Dodson had such a problem with.
A professor of mine from last year advised that since the coochi snorcher involves sex with a minor (the older woman is 24), it should be removed from the play entirely. I don't know if I agree with that. We could be subject to legal action if the play is modified at all. I also see your point, Miz S, about some people maturing faster than others. However, when I read this passage, it strikes me as a naive young woman being illegally "seduced" by this older woman. She seems like a sexual predator, that she singles this younger woman out and goes after her, gives her vodka and has sex with her.
On the other hand, the way I see it, it's not so much an endorsement of statutory rape as it is a depiction of this one character's experience. Legally and ethically I think the older woman did something wrong, but that is the experience this character had. I can enjoy a film like Reservoir Dogs even though there's killing and torture in it, right? I see this in a similar light.
Re: female anatomy, another friend of mine also advised me that my idea about including the insert was a sound one, AS LONG AS I manage to "sell" the idea to the organizers the right way. Any ideas on how to do that??
[This message has been edited by Mophead (edited 11-29-2005).]
But I agree with what you're saying regarding that monologue. The point of the whole play is to simply voice women's actual experiences. Besides, the whole of the play includes things like talking about sex work, like women descibing sexual violence and rape: should those be removed too? If not, what's okay about those that isn't about the other?
Per selling the idea, I'd simply suggest that there IS a serious problem with the anatomical language used and that if the play is being put on to educate about women's anatomy, not having something like that would be a big slight. Moreover, from a feminist perspective, you can also bring up that so many women call their vulva their vagina, because, essentially, women have allowed their genitals to be defined only by the part which is engaged in intercourse, which is both sexist and heterosexist.
I've been told it is now a criminal act in Canada to portray sex between an adult and a minor. I really hope this doesn't snowball and wind up getting the play shut down, because that would really be a shame. But I really wouldn't shed tears if that one monologue were to be removed. We could replace it with The Vulva Club, in which a woman learns the real name for her genitalia. This is actually a monologue in the V-Day Edition but we could face legal action if we were to make that change, or any other change for that matter. I auditioned with the Vulva Club but they're not going to include it.
Thank you so much for your help. I don't know what I'd do without the advice.
eta: I just sent this letetr off to the producers / directors of the show. I hope I don't get booted.
1) I have some concerns about the incorrect terminology for female genitalia. A lot of times in the Vagina Monologues, the word vagina is used when they are referring to the vulva. This has been a serious concern of some who have critiqued the play. See this diagram for an example: http://www.scarleteen.com/body/female_anatomy_2.html
I know the play itself cannot be changed for legal reasons, but I had the idea of including an insert in the program at the play. A half sheet-size, it would include a diagram such as the one in the above link, and a brief explanation of the difference between vagina and vulva.
I feel that we are somewhat obligated to include this information, in the true spirit of the Vagina Monologues and V-Day. A big step in empowering women and men is teaching them about female genitalia and empowering women to understand their bodies and feel sexual pleasure. It would be a bit of a slight to women not to include this information.
I am willing to write the insert and submit it for your consideration.
2) Are we including The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could in this production? I have heard concerns that this monologue describes what would legally be called a rape, and could actually be illegal. I'm just giving you a heads-up. You may want to contact others who have produced this play and see how they dealt with the subject matter.
I appreciate you taking time to listen to my concerns what with all the work you are doing to put on this fabulous play. Please do take my suggestion into consideration.
Was I nice enough?
[This message has been edited by Mophead (edited 11-30-2005).]
Update: Well I've begun memorizing my lines, which is usually the most difficult part for me. Doing okay so far.
I've been finding it difficult to keep using the incorrect "vagina" as I practice. It also makes it difficult for me to identify with this character, which is so crucial to performing well. I've tried to view things in sort of a 'kitch' or 'camp' way, like the character I'm playing really is just ignorant, and the incompetent woman who ran the Vagina Workshop (Certainly NOT Betty Dodson) told these equally ignorant women that their vulvas were their vaginas.
In order for me to do this play, I have to see it as a group of women who are so happy and proud about their vulvas and, so, so ironically, call them their vaginas the entire time because they have been misled. My character is similarly victimized. But she is still happy. She still learns where here clitoris is and how to orgasm. She and all the other characters are blissfully unaware.
Thanks for being here to listen to me rant, guys.
eta: The kid in Coochi Snorcher is now 16, which is of age in Canada. It's all nice and legal now.
[This message has been edited by Mophead (edited 12-26-2005).]
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