Conservative Women Respond To The Vagina Monologues

Ken AshfordWomen's Issues2 Comments

Having seen it (again) this weekend in Winston-Salem as part of our community’s involvement in V-Day, I found this story to be timely:

Monique Stuart was a teenager when Eve Ensler’s "The Vagina Monologues" first appeared off-off-Broadway a decade ago.

But by the time the 24-year-old saw the play in her senior year of college, she’d already made up her mind that it wasn’t worth much.

"It really confirmed everything I already thought about the play," she says.

In other words, Stuart thought the play was going to be offensive, and as it turned out, she DID find it offensive.  Well, who would have expected that?

Seventeen young women, snacking on bagels and apple juice, had gathered for this workshop at the Conservative Political Action Conference to listen to Stuart and others trash "The Vagina Monologues," which appears on hundreds of campuses every February and March as part of V-Day, a campaign Ensler helped found in the late ’90s to raise awareness about violence against women.

As part of that effort, her play has become a perennial fundraiser for anti-violence organizations.

The show has always had its detractors, but this year conservatives worked to transform the season of "The Vagina Monologues" into a season of the Vagina Debates. Stuart can take some credit for that.

Yeah.  I’m sure it’s on her resume.

The play [The Vagina Maonologues] strings together interviews with 200 women into a series of stories, some full of humor, some full of pleasure, others full of abuse and violence. "Women’s sanity was saved by bringing these hidden experiences into the open, naming them and turning our rage into positive action," feminist Gloria Steinem wrote in 1998.

But Stuart sees a different message, one that "tells women to look for their own fulfillment through sex."

Stuart asks, "Is that supposed to liberate them or empower them?"

I’ve seen the play three times now.  If Ms. Stuart walked away from that play thinking that it "tells women to look for their own fulfillment through sex", then she missed about 98% of the production.

I suspect, more likely, that she never saw it.  Either that, or she’s so obsessed with what she THINKS the message is, that’s she blind to everything else the play offers.

During winter break of her senior year, she retyped "The Vagina Monologues," replacing every use of the word "vagina" with "penis," and called the result "The Penis Monologues."

"When you call it ‘The Penis Monologues,’ that’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous on the other side as well," she says.

Next year, in an effort to show how ridiculous Shakespeare is, Stuart is going to rewrite "Romeo and Juliet", only this time having the star-crossed lovers be a couple of ferrets.

Georgetown freshman Anthony Bonna took a copy of Stuart’s Playbill back in November. A few weeks later, he called her to get one of the institute’s anti-V-Day kits, with posters that ask, "Aren’t women worth more than their private parts?"

Um, of course?  In fact, that’s one of the themes of the Vagina Monologues.  Maybe these anti V-Day people should see the play.  They might agree with it more than they think.

At George Washington University, senior Lindy Dinklage, 21, armed with materials she received from Stuart, set up an information table at the student center to oppose last weekend’s three performances.

"Empower women’s brains — not their vaginas," Dinklage called out, as most students hustled by, jabbering on cell phones or heading into the student center.

But every now and again someone did stop– and for Stuart, that’s what mattered.

What a lofty goal — interrupting students on their way around campus.  Her parents must be so proud.