The Vagina Monologues: A Debate

***Editors Note: The California Review takes no official stance regarding the Vagina Monologues. Below is a debate between two staff members.

V-Day: Valentines and vulgarity
Gabriella Hoffman


My Thoughts on the Monologues
Michael Tartre


V-Day: Valentines and vulgarity
Gabriella Hoffman

SAN DIEGO—Feb. 14—Instead of celebrating love this February 14th, feminists have called on us to embrace Vagina Day.

Why have some feminists hijacked Valentine’s Day with performances of The Vagina Monologues and vulgarities like “c***”?

V-Day proponents attack criticism of the play and opposition to local performances as misinformation and wage legal battles against their critics. They want their critics to educate themselves and not “misrepresent” the play. Well, what better way to enlighten yourself than by reading the “Gospel of Vaginas” to prove them wrong?

Eve Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues: The V-Day Edition, a book based on her one-woman play, and piloted V-Day on February 14th, 1998, to combat violence against women. Shortly afterward, the book and its associated V-Day movement came to college campuses.

Ensler’s book depicts women claiming empowerment through their vaginas. She asks us to imagine that they represent women:

“If my vagina could talk, it would talk about itself like me; it would talk about other vaginas; it would do vagina impressions” (Ensler 72).

If that is not disturbing, take a look at the book’s chapters: “Hair”, “The Flood”, “I Was Twelve. My Mother Slapped Me”, “The Vagina Workshop”, “Because He Liked to Look at It”, “My Angry Vagina”, ‘The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could”, and “Reclaiming C***”.

It’s entirely legitimate to criticize The Vagina Monologues, as it is to criticize any book and any ideology.

First, many of the monologues are not real:

“Some of the monologues are close to verbatim interviews, some are composite interviews, and with some I just began with the deed of an interview and had a good time” (Ensler 7).

In “The Little Coochi Snorcher That Could,” a 16-year-old girl is seduced by a 24-year old woman with vodka and is later raped. The original text states that the victim is a 13-year-old girl who venerates rape: “If it was rape, it was a good rape.”

Men are portrayed as sex-driven beasts. In “Because He Like to Look at Vaginas,” a character named Bob is portrayed as a man who fixates on vaginas:

“Turned out the Bob loved vaginas. He was a connoisseur” (Ensler 55).

Additionally, this monologue denigrates the role of men in society:

“Our self-hatred is only the internalized repression and hatred of the patriarchal culture” (Ensler 53).

The antidote to V-Day is Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s “V-Day Unveiled” campaign, which equips students with resources to combat the V-Day Movement on campus. This conservative organization encourages students to counter this initiative rather than cave in to pressure.
Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s “V-Day Unveiled” campaign

Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute’s “V-Day Unveiled” campaign

Conservatives are not alone, as liberals and feminists equally find the play repulsive.

Eric Marlin, a sophomore at Bennington College in Vermont, believes that The Vagina Monologues does a great disservice to society.

“I’m a very liberal, gay, atheist, feminist Democrat who attends a semi-hippie college,” Marlin said. “I have always been frustrated by the use of the Vagina Monologues as “The Woman Play” because of its condescension towards women, bastardization of sexuality, imbalance in its treatment of lesbian versus heterosexual relationships, and blatant hatred of men,” he added.

Feminist Camille Paglia similarly expressed disdain for the play.

“The perversion of feminism that Ensler represents — turning Valentine’s Day, the one holiday celebrating romantic harmony between the sexes, into a grisly memento mori of violence against women — has been well demonstrated by the ever-alert Christina Hoff Sommers…,” she wrote.

Nevertheless, the V-Day movement’s dangerous ties should not be overlooked.

Planned Parenthood–currently under fire after employees advised a purported pimp on how to obtain abortions for underage girls–is seen as a chief benefactor of V-Day:

“V-Day is working in collaboration with Planned Parenthood to implement within their already existing programs a strategy to prevent and end violence toward women” (Ensler xxxv).

Additionally, the Tides Center—which boasts ties to George Soros and his network of progressive groups—is praised for its support of the V-Day Movement:

“V-Day is proud to be a project of the Tides Center…The Tides Center ‘strengthens the roots of the social change movement by partnering quality management services with creative pragmatic endeavors'” (Ensler 175).

Instead of empowering their vaginas, women should empower their brains and stand up to this play. With The Vagina Monologues’ vulgarity and political agenda taken into account, individuals cannot let this play go unnoticed.


My Thoughts on the Monologues
Michael Tartre

The shock-and-awe style of the Vagina Monologues—intentionally breaching social comfort zones—has brought some traditionally-minded people to outrage. Its encroachment on the sacred ground of sexuality, it is claimed, is vulgar and derogatory. It is precisely this shocking style which enables the Vagina Monologues to address the issue of violence against women.

Compared to Valentine’s Day, no cause can seem more romantic, loving, or wholesome. The V-Day Movement (an organization committed to ending violence against women), by choosing Valentine’s Day as its background, amplifies and accentuates the failures of society to deliver our idealized love. Contrast is the weapon of choice for the V-Day activist, and contrast of our romanticized visions of love—especially if rooted in truth—cannot possibly be comfortable.

By first drawing the audience into pleasure-focused experiences, the contrast with the vicious and abusive misuse of sex delivers sheer horror. The collected experiences of women spanning continents and generations are interleaved into a fabric of shocking questions. The questions are left unanswered, as they remain unanswered in our society. How can women be protected in times of war? How can healing come after sexual abuse? What do we do with this embarrassment of our “private parts”?

Tradition has hushed sexuality. By denying us answers, tradition has failed us. But it is not traditional values which have failed. Values exist to interpret reality; they cannot be at odds with reality. It is the traditional blindfold of not letting the values interpret sexuality which leaves the questions without a guide. This is a tradition not based in any sort of morality, instead based only in embarrassment.

By gross accentuation, the Vagina Monologues exposes and removes the embarrassment as a barrier to addressing the problem of violence against women. While the issue of sex remains unspoken, the crimes of rape, sexual abuse, and repression are muted. By giving voice to vaginas, V-Day gives voice to vaginas in pain.

The Vagina Monologues is phenomenal, effective art. It clearly conveys the rift between Valentine’s Day love and the experiences of victims; then it demands solutions. The contrast surrounding the play is indeed disturbing, and the V-Day Movement promises to continue to disturb unashamedly until the violence stops.


One comment

  1. […] there are plenty of other reasons to not embrace TVM (or as Camille Paglia calls it, “the perversion of feminism that Ensler […]

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