Claudia (clauclauclaudia) wrote,

Yeah, that's what I was trying to say

I went to see The Vagina Monologues at MIT this evening. I'd seen it before a couple of times, and read the book of the monologues as well. I went particularly because my friend Susannah was in it (she performed "The Flood", and really well, too).

The pieces were all individually moving, but I'd formed my idea of what the Vagina Monologues was about several years ago, and found the shift over the years a bit disturbing. There were two new pieces since I'd seen it last: "Crooked Braid" and "The Memory of Her Face". And both were about violence against women. Neither had any sexuality or, well, vagina content, and the second wasn't even in the voice of the women it was about--instead it spoke about women who couldn't speak for themselves, due to injury, death, or cultural mores.

These are important stories to tell. But I don't think they're important to tell during the Vagina Monologues. There are, frankly, many other places in our culture that tell these stories. To me, the Vagina Monologues was a wonderful unique piece for what it had to say about female sexuality and physicality, about the experience of, well, having a vagina. Some of the monologues I knew from years ago had molestation and violence in them, but as aspects of women telling about themselves as sexual beings or as people with vaginas, rather than as targets of violence from men.

The Vagina Monologues has become a locus for fundraising to counter violence against women. How can I object to that? It's absolutely good to fund rape crisis centers and other charities that "V-Day" now supports. But there are in fact other ways that message gets out there. I'm sorry that The Vagina Monologues isn't its own separate thing anymore, as it was when I first encountered it, because a voice about the experience of being a woman, of getting your period, having children, learning to masturbate, being molested... all of that, was something new and different, and to me it now feels swamped by a Cause, washed into something more palatable.

I tried to say this at dinner afterwards and I'm not sure if I was understood correctly. Betty Dodson (non-worksafe photo there, careful) says it better than I managed to.

There's a rebuttal at that seems to me to miss much of the point. I don't think Dodson was saying American female orgasms are more important than African clitoridectomies. I think she was saying (and dammit, if she wasn't, I am!) that it seems to be easier for our culture to address the latter than the former, and that a work that used to be about uniquely female experiences that had no voice before, is now about something else.

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