Valentine’s Day is coming up and that means that college campuses will once again host productions of Eve Ensler’s 20-year-old play “The Vagina Monologues” as part of the V-Day Campaign to raise consciousness about gender issues.
A student group at Mount Holyoke College has decided to cancel its annual performance of The Vagina Monologues, saying the play excludes the experiences of transgender women who don’t have a vagina.
Holyoke student Yvonne Dean-Bailey, a writer for the conservative Campus Reform magazine, obtained a copy of the email announcing the cancellation from the Theatre Board. It read in part:
“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman…Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive,” the email, obtained by Campus Reform, said.
But this doesn’t mean that Holyoke is returning to flowers and candy gifts on Valentine’s Day. Another play is in the works:
Replacing the play will be Mount Holyoke’s own version that will be trans-inclusive and fix the “problems” supposedly perpetuated by Ensler. [Theatre Board representative Erin] Murphy also claims that there are problems with race, class, and “other identities” within the play.
The new production, comprised of students’ monologues, will be performed in a fashion reminiscent of the feminist classic. The program will be performed alongside the College’s Peer Health Educators, an on-campus student-led group that provides education and workshops for students, including a workshop on how to use sex toys properly.
Alas, the decision to ditch “The Vagina Monologues” seems to have caused some heartache among more tradition-minded alumna:
But [alumna Suzanna Walters, a gender and sexuality center head at Northeastern University] was upset with the way the students chose to express their decision — by criticizing Ensler’s work with terms such as essentialist, reductive and narrow, she said in an interview. She wrote a letter that was published Tuesday on the website for One Billion Rising, a campaign against violence against women.
Inclusion and discrimination shouldn’t be confused, despite the frequency with which the two of conflated in academic and feminist politics, Walters said.
Holyoke, founded in 1837 and the first of the prestigious women’s colleges formerly known as the Seven Sisters, recently announced that it is now accepting former men who identify as women. A helpful video explaining Holyoke’s gender redefinition is available.