Why We Need V-Day More Than Ever

This is a guest post by Echo Zen. Echo is a feminist filmmaker, blogger, speaker and sexual health advocate, currently deployed in the States to counter the influence of Tea Party moppets. When ze’s not doing ad consulting for birth control, ze tries to blog semi-regularly for Feministe (partly to set a good example for zir sister).

“Why are you doing Vagina Monologues?”

It’s a common question, even (and especially) among feminists, who may share common goals but different motives. Dispense with the details and specifics, and VM boils down to creating a safe space for women to voice their experiences – because we sure as hell don’t have many of those right now, certainly not in the world’s beacon of “democracy.” In the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections, women’s representation on Capitol Hill – already at a paltry 17 percent, in a nation where 51 percent are female – fell for the first time in history. In the media sphere, women continue to be seen but not heard, with less than a third of U.S. films featuring women protagonists, and only a third of that number even being directed by women. And in a society that consistently scrubs and dismisses half the population’s stories and voices from public discourse, it comes as no surprise that the extremists in the other half of the population feel entitled to squeeze their boots even harder on the necks of women, to choke away the few stories women do tell about their lives and experiences – unless it toes the (Tea) Party line about how women are happiest when they have no aspirations or lives outside serving their husbands and children.

Of course one needn’t look to policy or institutions to see how society strives to silence the voices of women. Whether it’s the way women in online spaces are swamped with violent threats when they dare to voice their opinions, or the way girls who speak openly about their sexuality are shouted down for being “dirty whores,” or the belief that rape survivors with the audacity to “dare to take pleasure in their bodies and live their lives on their own terms deserve whatever they get,” sexism is just too stupidly obvious for any conscious person to ignore. And for the people who participate in V-Day, the desire to craft a safe, concrete space – albeit temporary – for women’s voices is usually a sufficient motive. Mine is slightly different.

“Why are you doing the Monologues?”
“Well, mostly because I support affordable childcare, equal pay for women and contraception access.”
“…”

Not the most conventional reason, sure, but let’s not kid ourselves. The thousands of policy assaults our so-called representatives have launched against women since the 2010 elections may be dressed in the language of “pro-life,” “fiscal responsibility” and “limited government.” But for uninformed observers late to the Tea Party, all these (overwhelmingly Christian) attacks are rooted in one fundamental phobia – the Religious Right’s fear of vaginas, their fanatical belief that the ability to control one’s vaginas in order to pursue an education and career is directly responsible for “America’s decline as a world power,” and their conviction that women’s ability to have sex without reproduction is the greatest threat to America’s economic future (along with gay people). After all, only Communist Nazis would possibly think corporate greed, corruption or income inequality had anything at all to do with what’s endangering Middle America today.

This isn’t news to anyone with even a cursory background in feminist advocacy. Fringe extremists have long promoted this ideology of vaginal contempt for decades – the Tea Party simply brought misogyny’s fringe elements into the mainstream, hidden in their Trojan horse of smaller government. And the media continues to fail at connecting the dots unifying the extremists’ relentless assaults on contraception, affordable childcare, collective bargaining rights and healthcare reform. All these are issues that disproportionately affect women’s ability to pursue education and careers like their male counterparts – because last time anyone checked, cisgender men don’t have to worry about pregnancy threatening their health and employability.

The singular motive behind these attacks is simple – to choke women out of the public sphere by stripping them of their rights, forcing them to accept lower wages and poorer work conditions, until they have no choice but to subordinate themselves to their husbands for their basic financial and healthcare needs. Only then can women’s voices be once again erased from the public sphere and the U.S. restored to its former glory, as in the good ol’ days before women’s independence ruined the moral foundation that made America great.

If there’s one silver lining to last year’s masturbatory carnival of legislative contempt for women, it’s that the misogynists who occupy seats of institutional power in the States have become so emboldened by their dominance that they’ve begun dispensing with the formality of feigning concern for protecting women from themselves – and have instead made plain their belief that women who dare to deviate from their proper role as submissive housewives are responsible for destroying America. And their honesty sure is refreshing. When high-profile figures like Santorum advocate for criminalising birth control because it grants to women “a license to do things,” and when half of Congress oversteps its arrogance by trying to strip rape survivors of their reproductive rights in full public view, it makes difficult the usual attempts to dismiss feminists as hysterical ladies who exaggerate extremist threats to contraception, domestic violence laws and equal pay for women.

There’s no hyperbole in classifying these attacks not just as equivalent to violence against women, but as violence against women, period. When legislators endanger women’s lives by forcing fraudulent abstinence-only education on teen girls or by stripping women of their right to life-saving contraception, they are by definition waging war on women. These legislators have carte blanche to violently pursue their goal of expelling women’s voices from the public sphere – not because women aren’t speaking up or fighting back, but because existing institutions have zero interest in representing women’s independent voices. That would require forcing apart the male, reactionary monopoly that today’s institutions wield over the megaphones of society – which would obviously threaten America’s moral fabric, or something.

That’s why we need V-Day more than ever now, 15 years after the Vagina Monologues premiered in 1996. We need these safe spaces for women, because not enough of them exist – and because the few that exist have come under repeated attack from who despise giving voice to women about their experiences with rape, incest and prejudice. These are the charlatans who claim giving a space to women where they can celebrate sexuality on their own terms – not as adjuncts to male, heterosexual partners – is “physical, selfish” and “devoid of God,” and that the way to “defend women’s dignity” is by lecturing women on how “sexual modesty” will keep men from raping them.

The idea of women speaking openly and candidly about their experiences of menstruation, war rape and female empowerment must scare the hell out of institutional misogynists. And in an era where attacks on women’s voices are coming more furiously than ever, we need these stories more than ever.

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Addendum: If you’re producing, directing or otherwise doing Vagina Monologues right now, at some point you may realise you’re a masochist for even attempting this, and despair over how you’ll have everything ready by your performance date. Know that thousands of your allies know exactly how you feel, and that even if we’ve never met, you are my sister-soldier and I know you’ll make it to the end. Kick arse out there – we have big, meaty fish to fry afterward, like Boehner and his boner-killing gang of thugs in November!

(And as always, this piece is dedicated to Aiyana and Tisha. I love you both.)


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85 comments for “Why We Need V-Day More Than Ever

  1. Donna L
    February 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Are you doing the trans-inclusive (sort of) version?

  2. February 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    I performed in the Vagina Monologues and found it to be a great experience, although I am bothered by some of the problematic aspects of some of the monologues, such as the one where an underage girl is given alcohol and basically molested by an older woman.

    I’d be interested to hear about the trans-inclusive version you mention, DonnaL

  3. Donna L
    February 15, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I believe that Ms. Ensler wrote an additional monologue from the viewpoint of a trans woman, which is now sometimes used in some productions. I don’t know if anyone’s ever tried to include trans men in a production.

  4. Catherine
    February 15, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    I considered directing the Vagina Monologues this year at my university, but in the end the second-wave-ness of it got to me too much, and I didn’t feel I could fully get behind it/commit to it. I was really troubled by things like the general feeling of vagina=woman, which is obviously massively transphobic as well as reductive. There’s one monologue in which a woman ‘discovers’ her clitoris, and it is described as the centre of her being, which is also problematic both from a cissexist perspective and for women who were for whatever reason born without a clitoris or who had FGM performed on them. And then there’s the whole rape thing, which is so not okay. I was just really troubled by the play.

  5. Donna L
    February 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I’ve never read it or seen a production, so I can’t offer a direct opinion, but I do know that a LOT of people have the same issue that was expressed in comments 2 and 4 — the apparent justification of what amounted to rape. As well as the cissexist aspects.

  6. Alexis
    February 15, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I am doing the Vagina Monologues this year at my university (though we’re performing in late March because of scheduling conflicts). Before and after the performances we are collecting money for a local rape counseling center, collecting feminine hygiene products for low-income women, and handing out information about the current reproductive rights climate in America. I thought this post was incredibly well-written and I am definitely printing it out and handing it out to the cast at rehearsal on Sunday!

  7. ginmar
    February 15, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Why are you doing the vagina monologues?

    —Because every day we get the penis soliloquy, and it’s time for a change of pace.

  8. Politicalguineapig
    February 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I get what you’re trying to do, EchoZen, but the Vagina Monologues just tend to piss me off for all kinds of reasons. The rapeyness of a couple of the monologues, the cutesiness (The Little Cootchie Snorter that Could? Really?) and the general middle-class smugness of the whole thing. It’s like the prose equivalent of the women who make vagina jewelry on Etsy. Can’t we put that new-age nonsense behind us?
    I think there are other plays that could be used to kickstart discussions and create safe places. There are some theater adaptations of Frankenstein, which would be perfect for a pro-choice fundraiser. The whole book’s about how much men hate women for being able to create life.

  9. karak
    February 15, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I’m not going to argue that the Vaginas Monologues are perfect–they’re not, and for the exact reasons as stated above.

    But I am going to defend them as a workable place to start, especially for young cis women who are middle class, who are afraid or ignorant about their own vaginas, to have a place to start talking about feminism, and rape, and sex. And hopefully once they get that first foot into the door, they can start looking at things like trans women, or victims of FGM, or women who are intersex or other kinds of people.

  10. Athenia
    February 15, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Yeah, I think they are a good place to start. I encouraged my brother to see it—he ended up seeing it with his girlfriend. He thought guys should see it because he had no idea women felt those things about their vagina. He also pointed out that one monologue that he felt was a rape.

    But I would like to see a second collection of Vagina Monologues definitely.

  11. Alexis
    February 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I totally agree with it being a place to start. My mother and I have a big giant chasm in understanding with each other when it comes to women’s issues and she is so uncomfortable with coming to see me perform, but I told her that she couldn’t get out of it. Not only because I want her to be there, but because I think it will be an eye-opening experience for her. It is definitely not a perfect play, and there are a lot of things I would add to it if I could rewrite it, but it’s something to raise awareness. And a lot of performances DO raise money for good causes, or raise awareness for good causes in events surrounding the actual performances.

  12. EG
    February 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    But I am going to defend them as a workable place to start, especially for young cis women who are middle class, who are afraid or ignorant about their own vaginas, to have a place to start talking about feminism, and rape, and sex.

    I agree with this–the level of biological ignorance out there is startling. I was at an avowedly feminist women’s college about fifteen years ago, and I met classmates who thought women urinated out of their clitorises. This was from women who grew up before the heyday of abstinence-only education. The entire play is a strikeback at the cultural idea that female genitals are inherently dirty and shameful and weak, and while that may be old hat to many of us, at the college campuses where I understand it is still being performed, there are cis women out there who need that message. It’s not the only message they need, of course, and I’m glad to hear that Ensler wrote an addendum addressing the experiences of trans women, but it’s not a bad message or place to start from, either.

    I feel about it the same way I feel about interfaith dialogues on campus. I’m an atheist; I think all of you are absurdly wrong. But building those kinds of connections is a good way to address several problems that cause unnecessary suffering. Not all of them, or even close to all of them, but several of them.

  13. Dao
    February 15, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    But I am going to defend them as a workable place to start, especially for young cis women who are middle class, who are afraid or ignorant about their own vaginas, to have a place to start talking about feminism, and rape, and sex. And hopefully once they get that first foot into the door, they can start looking at things like trans women, or victims of FGM, or women who are intersex or other kinds of people.

    I still find it problematic if the aim of the Monologues, and correct me if I’m misreading you karak, is to get young cis women in the door ahead of trans women, or survivors of FGM, etc. It stills seems like we’re letting certain women through the door, so to speak, before others, who have traditionally been forced to enter second, or sit in the balcony, or who haven’t been let into the room at all.

    It seems to be the language that is used against women of color, queer women, trans women, etc…we have to wait for the young cis women to get through the door and recognize US before we just start with US.

  14. Donna L
    February 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    I met classmates who thought women urinated out of their clitorises.

    Wow. Even I knew better than that when I was that age! Although if someone asked me to pinpoint the place where my urethra comes out, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to, except very generally.

  15. Chiara
    February 15, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Sorry but I find the idea icky. If you want to talk about important stuff, talk about important stuff. Just don’t try to talk about important stuff through a play with the word ‘vagina’ in the title. It’s just going to turn everybody off.

    And to top it off, as far as I remember, the play attempts to portray the sexual assault of a young girl in a positive light. Just no. It ain’t the 70s no more.

  16. number9
    February 15, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Just don’t try to talk about important stuff through a play with the word ‘vagina’ in the title. It’s just going to turn everybody off.

    And that’s why we still need Vagina Monologues, even though some apects of the text are dated and un-inclusive. Because we’re still dealing with the idea that the very mention of (some) women’s genitals is a turn-off and automatically disqualifies whatever you’ve got to say from being Important Stuff.

  17. February 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I still find it problematic if the aim of the Monologues, and correct me if I’m misreading you karak, is to get young cis women in the door ahead of trans women, or survivors of FGM, etc. It stills seems like we’re letting certain women through the door, so to speak, before others, who have traditionally been forced to enter second, or sit in the balcony, or who haven’t been let into the room at all.

    Dao, you articulated what I was thinking. I’ve never felt especially negatively about the Vagina Monologues or their goals, but I’ve also never seen them. If they’re a “starting point for young cis women,” though, that make me uncomfortable because it sounds like it’s trying to spin trans exclusion as a feature rather than a bug. That said, I know several trans women who have performed in the Vagina Monologues, which is good.

  18. February 15, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    (But I strongly feel that the open use of the word “vagina” is one of the play’s main positive selling points.)

  19. debbie
    February 15, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    I’m not a fan of the Monologues for the reasons that others have already stated above, but I can see how they might be powerful for people/places where using the word “vagina” is taboo.

  20. February 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    The Vagina Monologues were definitely a 101 to feminism and sex positivity for me as an undergrad. I would have come to both a LOT later and less wiser with this experience. I understand that this is not perfect. But happily, people can continue to grow and change.

    The cootchie-snorcher monologue (the one in which a young girl is, for lack of a better word, seduced by an older woman) started a pretty intense debate at my small undergrad. I remember feeling frustrated by a male classmate who was sort of against the whole thing on principle and probably also vaginas in general (in that Republican way), but who fixed on that monologue as the crux of his criticism. He said: that sex scene is coercion. I said: not many women can claim that their first sex experience ISN’T coercive!

    I didn’t have the language or theory or support to really articulate my issue back then. But as disturbing as the monologue is, I’ve always been glad it’s there. It’s complicated. It depicts a relationship in which there is a severe power imbalance, but the younger character actively desires the encounter, enjoys it, and it is the first positive sexual experience she has. This does not erase its complicated and maybe even sinister overtones. But the story allows that even in less than ideal circumstances, less than empowered circumstances, and even after a series of violent intrusions, a female body can still desire and feel pleasure. That character is a survivor, and I want to see her story told.

  21. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 7:00 am

    Wow. Even I knew better than that when I was that age! Although if someone asked me to pinpoint the place where my urethra comes out, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to, except very generally.

    Right? I mean, even the diagram inside a box of tampons will show you that the clitoris and the urethra are separate. The level of ignorance many young women have about their own bodies is astounding, and one of the reasons that, although it’s not for me, I do think that performing this play can be very helpful.

    I find the idea icky. If you want to talk about important stuff, talk about important stuff. Just don’t try to talk about important stuff through a play with the word ‘vagina’ in the title. It’s just going to turn everybody off.

    So, a text about how many, many women are made to feel shame for having vaginas should be sure not to mention vaginas in its title? The whole point of the play is interrogate the misogyny behind this shame. What’s so icky about vaginas?

    Hey, did everybody know that the spell-check in the comment box doesn’t recognize the plural “vaginas”? I guess one vagina is OK, but two or more don’t exist!

    If they’re a “starting point for young cis women,” though, that make me uncomfortable because it sounds like it’s trying to spin trans exclusion as a feature rather than a bug.

    That’s not how I read it. I read it as a reference to the fact that most people aren’t going to feel much interest in a movement unless they feel it is relevant to their own lives. The Vagina Monologues is highly successful at making that relevance apparent to young cis women, especially the kind of student I saw a lot of when I taught at a private university, the kind I think of as “I’m not a feminist but” girls. Young white women who weren’t rejecting the term “feminist” in order to reject a history of racism or trans-exclusion, but would come out with things like “I’m not a feminist, but I’m pro-choice,” “I’m not a feminist, but I do think that learning women’s history is important,” “I’m not a feminist, but I do support paid maternity leave.” One of these young women, a smart one, wrote in a paper that Thelma and Louise was not a “feminist” movie, but a movie about “liberation for women.” These are young women who are reflecting the term “feminist” because of the quite successful hatchet job done on it by mainstream media–they don’t want anyone to think that they hate men, don’t shave their legs, etc. The Vagina Monologues, for all its faults, and I’m not suggesting that it doesn’t have them, is one way of reaching these young women.

  22. Marcie
    February 16, 2012 at 7:05 am

    @Tanglethis:

    The cootchie-snorcher monologue (the one in which a young girl is, for lack of a better word, seduced by an older woman)

    The word you are looking for is rape.

    The way Eisler originally wrote it, it’s intoxication and statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, in my understanding pretty much what Polanski did.
    Only in his case noone would dare say “if it was rape, it was a good rape”.

    I understand that that episode was watered down and is sometimes ommited completely, but it still illustrates the Vagina Monologues’ basic mindset and hypocrisy.

  23. February 16, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Debbie and Sara-Apparently the open usage of the word does create shock and backlash among the wingnuttery. The Dalton, Ga Citizen News actually misspelled the word, probably deliberately, when advertising a community production of The Vagina Monologues. Don’t know about Latina participation in a community which is over 1/3 Hispanic.

  24. Chiara
    February 16, 2012 at 8:25 am

    And that’s why we still need Vagina Monologues, even though some apects of the text are dated and un-inclusive. Because we’re still dealing with the idea that the very mention of (some) women’s genitals is a turn-off and automatically disqualifies whatever you’ve got to say from being Important Stuff.

    But it’s not just that at all. When people think about the Vagina Monologues they think about a bunch of frumpy middle-aged women using words like ‘sisterhood’ and ‘womyn’.

  25. February 16, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I like some of the monologues, but really: Why are you still doing them?
    Your post did not answer this question for me.
    This play is outdated. Even the discussion about it appropriateness seems outdated.
    It could evolve into a new genre of [female] self-exploration and self-articulation readings, yet unfortunately it did not.
    It is still being recited verbatim.
    Year after year.
    As if it is some sort of a spell. A ritual.

  26. February 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’m a frumpy middle aged woman and the frumpy, middle-aged woman who used words like ‘sisterhood’ and ‘womyn’ has been a stereotype since I was in college, at least.

    So, I’d like to say two things. 1. Becoming a frumpy, middle-aged women isn’t some terrible fate that young women should be afraid of. It happens to us all, if we are lucky enough to live that long. 2. People who disagree with us will ALWAYS use their stereotypes about feminists against us. Pretty much any time you find yourself in a position where you’re trying to argue “But I’m not like THOSE women, I’m not [middle-aged and frumpy/humorless/slutty/man-hating/etc.]” you’re fighting a losing, stupid war. We are all, always, open to the accusations that we are like their stereotypes of us.

    You can either spend all your time trying to not be like “those” women or you can accept that there’s literally NOTHING you can do to appease people who are predisposed not to like you and get on with your life.

    I am troubled that the Vagina Monologues isn’t trans inclusive, that it has that really fucked up monologue that is about someone enjoying her rape, and that it does appeal mostly to white, middle-class young women. I am troubled that so many young women still need the Vagina Monologues and that it is still the first place so many of them are encountering the idea that having a vagina is a fine thing.

    But I’m not troubled, even for a second, that it makes people think of frumpy middle-aged women.

  27. February 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I have acted in the Vagina Monologues four times and directed the play once, and I agree with so many of the criticisms above, but I stuck with it for an important reason. It gave women on campus an opportunity to come together and work through some really important stuff (and deal with the problematic stuff together) in a way that most plays do not. I’m not saying that there aren’t other plays with messages like the VMs, and I’m sure there are plays that are much better, but the VMs requires that everyone that auditions gets a part, and the rehearsal schedule is less rigorous than many plays because of the structure of the play, so more women are able to come out and participate. We had casts of over 30 women, plus people of all genders that helped out with the performance and ticket selling and fundraising. And we often solicited monologues from the community for additional performances to counterbalance the middle-class, vulva-centric nature of the VMs, so that definitely helped address the issues with the VMs.

  28. February 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

    And we often solicited monologues from the community for additional performances to counterbalance the middle-class, vulva-centric nature of the VMs, so that definitely helped address the issues with the VMs.

    This is exactly what I meant. The text isn’t sacred – rather than just accepting that the VMs are a “good starting point for young cis women,” it would be much better to do things like the previous commenter did to actually make them more inclusive. Why can’t they become a good starting point for young women, period?

    When I first heard about the VMs, I didn’t know it was a single, scripted play. I assumed they were a bunch of monologues written by the speakers or other contributors around the same basic themes (the positive ones we’ve mentioned in this thread). I assumed it would be different at each iteration. I kind of think my initial misconception of how it worked would actually have certain advantages over the fully scripted format.

  29. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    It could evolve into a new genre of [female] self-exploration and self-articulation readings, yet unfortunately it did not.
    It is still being recited verbatim.
    Year after year.
    As if it is some sort of a spell. A ritual.

    Or…almost…as if…it were….a play.

    Imagine that. Somebody wrote a play, and when people perform it, they “recite it verbatim.” How odd. That never happens with other political plays. Why, when I go see The Threepenny Opera this weekend, I fully expect that random other people who may or may not be able to write a decent script will have inserted bits to make it more relevant to, for instance, contemporary racial and gender politics. That’s how it was, after all, the last time I went to see Inherit the Wind.

    Oh, wait, I don’t and it wasn’t. I guess it was all just a bunch of irrelevant incantations, then. After all, what possible relevance to anybody could something written, gee, fifteen whole years ago have?

    Look, if you don’t think the play should be put on because of the numerous, legit criticisms of it, that’s one thing. But complaining and expressing bafflement that when people do put it on, they, well, put it on, rather than some random, hypothetical collection of writings that you’d rather see is just bizarre.

    I kind of think my initial misconception of how it worked would actually have certain advantages over the fully scripted format.

    It is an interesting idea, although being the cynical person that I am, my experience is that most people can’t put together a dramatically compelling monologue. Nothing’s stopping anyone from doing it.

  30. Anecdotal
    February 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Ugh, want to know why we need the vagina monologues? Here’s just one example, from a hearing this morning in Congress about contraception access.

  31. Chiara
    February 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I’m a frumpy middle aged woman and the frumpy, middle-aged woman who used words like ‘sisterhood’ and ‘womyn’ has been a stereotype since I was in college, at least.

    Yeah I’m not hating on frumpy middle-aged women but college aged people can’t really relate to that. Young women today want to be mashin’ it all up, and they want to look good doing it. Something like Kill Bill I think is better.

  32. Anecdotal
    February 16, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    @ Tanglethis – well said.

  33. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Something like Kill Bill I think is better.

    In which a tall, thin, blonde white woman kills, among other people, a bunch of women of color, one of them in front of her daughter? I’m not seeing a real feminist message there. Tarantino appropriating a bunch of signifiers of feminism and continuing his fixation on Uma Thurman, yes. Feminism, no.

  34. February 16, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Yeah, but Chiara, my point is that it’s made-up. We can’t stop people from making up crap about feminists, but why should we worry about appeasing their fear about the crap they made up? I mean, honestly, how would we even do that?

    For DECADES feminists have been “No, look! Some of us are sexy! Look, some of us are young and shave our legs! Some of us wear high heels! Some of us get married and have babies and stay home and raise them. Look, we love men!” And it does not matter. Has not worked to change perceptions of what feminists are.

    So, I don’t think that shying away from saying “vagina” or working to make sure that people understand that we’re not frumpy is going to be the magic key that finally makes non-feminists see us as whole people.

  35. Chiara
    February 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Well despite its problems it still has a very strong message: fuck with me and you’ll get sworded. And she gets revenge on the man who raped her and the man who facilitated other men to rape her while she was in a coma. The epitome of a strong female character. And also, it’s a way that we might be able to get through to males because they’ll be able to respect the extreme violence.

  36. February 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    @EG:

    I mentioned it in the context of VM becoming a movement (V-Day) rather than merely a play. Being part of this movement VM is presented as a special event, a “safe space for women’s voices” etc.
    The questions are:
    Is the original text representative?
    Does it live up to its fame and the purpose of the V-Day movement?

    P.S. I do believe that the goal and process of production of Die Dreigroschenoper (even some campus version) are really different from those of VM.
    Either we perceive it as just a political play or we perceive it as something more.

  37. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I think that asking a play to perform the function of a movement is really rather absurd. The Vagina Monologues has been the centerpiece of a day of action and discussion–which itself is rather different than a movement–but expecting a work of art to carry the weight of and represent a movement is dooming yourself to disappointment. That’s not how art works.

    I don’t see much difference at all between The Vagina Monologues and any other political play. Plenty of schools, for instance, such as mine when I was young, read Inherit the Wind as it was written, and manage to get something politically relevant out of it.

  38. Donna L
    February 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    I gather that Ms. Ensler writes a new monologue every year, so there are obviously quite a few of them out there by now. I’m not entirely sure what choice people who are putting on a production have as to how many of the original ones vs. newer ones they’re required/allowed to use. I believe that Ms. Ensler has stipulated that the trans woman’s monologue she wrote, “They Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy,” can be performed only by trans women. Which is good, although it obviously precludes its inclusion in many productions, especially at colleges where there are few or no out trans women, or at women’s colleges where the only trans people are trans men.

    I’ve never seen that monologue, so I have no idea how decent it is (I suspect it has the same woman = vagina issue that the play has in general, which is obviously problematic for trans women). (I have major problems watching trans-themed movies, plays, TV programs, etc.; they generally make me extremely anxious and queasy.)

  39. Anecdotal
    February 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Ooops, link above didn’t post – but it’s the same pic now posted under ‘Pic of the Day’. Once again: proof of the need for things like The Vagina Monologues.

  40. Politicalguineapig
    February 16, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Chiara: Seconded. Men don’t respect women as much as they respect other men because they figure that women won’t resort to violence. Women need to learn to be violent. Softness kills.

  41. number9
    February 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Yeah I’m not hating on frumpy middle-aged women but college aged people can’t really relate to that. Young women today want to be mashin’ it all up, and they want to look good doing it. Something like Kill Bill I think is better.

    Well, now you’re just trollin’.

  42. igglanova
    February 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    I am always incredibly disturbed by this attitude in feminist spaces, whereby people call for us to throw every piece of feminist work that is somewhat imperfect in the trash. As if women’s work has so little value that it can be safely discarded if it isn’t the zenith of ideological perfection. Disposable, and worthless. Do you attack Shakespeare festivals with the same vehemence, and calls for censorship?* Or is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ totally fine because it was written by a man who didn’t give a shit about at least trying to make the world better for women?

    By all means, criticize TVM. You can write pointed critiques that rip it to shreds on the grounds of artistic merit or hypocritical politics if you want. Write a play that’s better in every conceivable way if you wish. But nonchalantly deciding that it’s A-OK to tell people to throw it on the pile as if it were the first play that ever contained some retrofuck ideas and is therefore worthless is just a pile of bullshit.

    Would it be too much to ask, for people to do a little thought experiment? I’d like you all to think of whatever piece of media, critique, etc., got you into feminism in the first place, or perhaps consider your first Pro-Woman Mentor for a moment. Does any of that stuff that was once so meaningful and important to you still live up to current standards of perfect ideology? In fact, would you have even bothered to consider feminism at all if the only ideas available to you so meticulously avoided offense, and were so far from any mainstream viewpoint that it made feminism seem hopelessly dense and like a veritable minefield of ways to fail?

    My point, basically, is an agreement with what other posters have said before me – that there is a place for the imperfect, and that imperfection is actually ideal, sometimes, if we want to have any hope of reaching a non-feminist audience. TVM is one feminist starting point. If we can get people to consider oppression at all, then refinement can come later.

    *Yeah, I know, I said ‘censorship.’ You might think of that as inflammatory language, but demands for people to not put on a production at all because you personally dislike it are precisely that.

  43. Chiara
    February 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Or is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ totally fine because it was written by a man who didn’t give a shit about at least trying to make the world better for women?

    *sigh*

    You cannot seriously be comparing ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ – a veritable masterwork – with ‘The Vagina Monologues’. Also don’t bother trying to criticize Shrew as being anti-feminist. Been done before, so boring. Shakespeare created a work of art based on his own biases, and the culture of the time. It was an outpouring of his soul and feelings, pure and simple. Don’t compare it to any political play with an agenda…

  44. number9
    February 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Don’t compare it to any political play with an agenda…

    But how does it compare to Kill Bill?

  45. Echo Zen
    February 16, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Drat, I would have commented earlier, but VM is sucking up all my time…

    While this article is more on the ideology behind why we’re doing VM, rather than the ideology of VM itself, I want to address questions about the Monologues. Except for some exceptions, we can’t just add, cut or edit VM monologues willy-nilly – we have a legal obligation to perform VM according to Ensler’s most recent script, which she revises every few years. Every VM crewmember is aware of the criticisms people have leveled at VM over the past 15 years – cissexism, hegemonic sisterhood, etc. That’s why we’ve made efforts to mitigate these problems through our participation – most of us are queer-identified and/or POC. We even tried to include the transwoman monologue (I personally considered performing it), though scheduling conflicts ultimately nixed it.

    But importantly, unlike crews before us, we don’t see VM as the destination. No matter how great a writer Ensler is, there’s no way her Monologues can represent the voices of all women in our community. Instead we’re using VM as a launch pad to start creating spaces to collect women’s stories and voice their experiences. (It’s possible Jill might post about this in the near future – it’s integrated into a vlog series we’re doing.) When I was a kid, I always assumed VM was a community-driven, collectively-written collection of women’s stories, rather than a composite edited by one person. Our vision for V-Day comes much closer to that initial conception, which is why I’m proud instead of apprehensive about doing VM this time.

    If you want to talk about important stuff, talk about important stuff. Just don’t try to talk about important stuff through a play with the word ‘vagina’ in the title. It’s just going to turn everybody off.

    …and thanks for reminding us why we still need VM, in this allegedly post-feminist era.

  46. February 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    The way Eisler originally wrote it, it’s intoxication and statutory rape of a 13 year old girl, in my understanding pretty much what Polanski did.
    Only in his case noone would dare say “if it was rape, it was a good rape”.

    I’m not interested in defending that monologue as a “good rape.” I’m not even interested in defending it as a good monologue. I am not going to reiterate what I already wrote. I just have this quibble:

    A key component of that monologue’s complicatedness is that the narrator enthusiastically consents. That doesn’t make it completely okay, or empowering, or unproblematic. But it makes it a substantially different story from the Polanski case.

  47. Catherine
    February 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    Or is ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ totally fine because it was written by a man who didn’t give a shit about at least trying to make the world better for women?

    Also, the ‘taming’ of Katherine is very frequently read as being satirical/ironic, and given that we know almost nothing about William Shakespeare as a person, I don’t think that it’s possible to say that he ‘didn’t give a shit about trying to make the world better for women’. Especially given that some of his heroines are the most well-rounded, human, detailed and strong women that featured on the Elizabethan and Jacobean stage. (cf. Rosalind, Beatrice, Viola etc)

    Furthermore, the whole POINT of TVM is that it’s supposed to be feminist, it’s not a play in the same way that The Taming of the Shrew is a play. TVM is deliberately political, polemical and there is no ‘suspension of disbelief’ as in Shakespeare’s plays. It is deliberately, specifically feminist, it is meant to communicate a feminist message.

    However, the feminist message that it communicates is, to say the least, regressive. It minimises rape by women while demonising rape by men (obviously the latter is not problematic, only the former); it is incredibly cis-centric; and it is painting a picture of feminism as being very ‘new-age’, obsessed with the ‘power of the vagina’ and, as one commenter said above, using words like ‘womyn’.

    When you stage The Taming of the Shrew, you’re not trying to get any particular message across. You’re just trying to tell a good story, entertain the audience. When you stage TVM, it’s ALL about sending a message; and in my view, the message it sends is a deeply problematic one.

  48. Catherine
    February 16, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    A key component of that monologue’s complicatedness is that the narrator enthusiastically consents.

    Erm, she’s 13, which in a whole lot of places means she’s legally unable to consent anyway; plus she clearly doesn’t really know what’s happening in the monologue, she is inexperienced. Also, the woman who rapes her first gives her vodka to drink. I don’t think 13 is the legal drinking age anywhere.

  49. Chiara
    February 16, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    But how does it compare to Kill Bill?

    I wasn’t trying to troll when I recommended Kill Bill. I know it has its problems but I think Tarantino’s heart is in the right place. And it’s something empowering that everyone from the younger generation can get down with. Females and males. Though I wish it weren’t true, I don’t think there’s any recent TV or movie that comes close.

  50. Donna L
    February 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I’m not interested in defending that monologue as a “good rape.” I’m not even interested in defending it as a good monologue. I am not going to reiterate what I already wrote. I just have this quibble:

    A key component of that monologue’s complicatedness is that the narrator enthusiastically consents. That doesn’t make it completely okay, or empowering, or unproblematic. But it makes it a substantially different story from the Polanski case.

    You do realize, right, that the “if it was rape, it was a good rape” characterization comes from the monologue itself (even though the line was later cut, just as the age was apparently later changed from 13 to 16)?

    Also, I can’t believe, and am horrified, that you just apparently took the position that it’s possible for a 13-year old to consent to sex with an adult, enthusiastically or otherwise. You have just officially engaged in rape apologism. Yeah, right, now you can just call it “problematic.” And please don’t try to tell me that the fact that the rapist was an adult woman rather than a man made it all OK and somehow made consent possible.

  51. Donna L
    February 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    You do realize, right, that the “if it was rape, it was a good rape” characterization comes from the monologue itself (even though the line was later cut, just as the age was apparently later changed from 13 to 16)?

    Also, I can’t believe, and am horrified, that you just apparently took the position that it’s possible for a 13-year old to consent to sex with an adult, enthusiastically or otherwise. You have just officially engaged in rape apologism. Yeah, right, now you can just call it “problematic.” And please don’t try to tell me that the fact that the rapist was an adult woman rather than a man made it all OK and somehow made consent possible.

  52. Donna L
    February 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Sorry for the double comment; they’re both in moderation anyway, of course. My basic point is that Tanglethis just engaged in blatant rape apology.

  53. Politicalguineapig
    February 16, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Chiara: Ghost in the Shell, maybe? In both the tv version and the movies, Motoko Kusanagi’s hella strong. The second tv season of Ghost in the Shell features a female prime minister, which ranks high on my cool list. Also Princess Mononoke; two very strong, well-written female leads.
    And for the younger set, there’s..just about every Studio Ghibli production ever. I mean, going on an epic quest to save your homeland/break the curse on the boyfriend/break away from your creepily close knit family/ might not be terribly realistic but it’s better then the ‘sit on your hands and wait’ theme of most classic fairytales.

  54. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I know it has its problems but I think Tarantino’s heart is in the right place.

    I could say the same thing about Ensler. Except in her case, I think it would be true, and Tarantino is all about his Uma Thurman foot fetish.

    And it’s something empowering that everyone from the younger generation can get down with.

    OK, I was the younger generation when Kill Bill came out, and I thought it was a load of crap.

    When you stage The Taming of the Shrew, you’re not trying to get any particular message across. You’re just trying to tell a good story, entertain the audience. When you stage TVM, it’s ALL about sending a message; and in my view, the message it sends is a deeply problematic one.

    Oh, I disagree. The fact is that the contemporary popularity of staging The Taming of the Shrew sends a very clear, very particular message, especially given that we have no reason to think it was very popular when it was first performed, and some reason to think that it wasn’t. Why do we keep staging this play, rather than, oh, I don’t know, Pericles? It’s not because Taming of the Shrew is a better play, because it’s not–no particularly complex or moving poetry in it at all.

    It was an outpouring of his soul and feelings, pure and simple.

    Oh, that’s absurd. We know next to nothing about Shakespeare’s writing process, much less “his soul and feelings.” He was a jobbing playwright. With Shrew, he did what he almost always did, which was to take a popular plot that he had reason to believe would do well and do a version for his company. And don’t for a moment think that Shakespeare wasn’t political. The politics of his day were, if anything, more cutthroat than ours, and the wrong political move could get a playwright of his time in far, far worse trouble than Ensler could ever get in.

  55. EG
    February 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I would also add that we don’t even know that what we have is Shakespeare’s precise words–what was published was often written down from actors’ memories, if my memory serves. Whatever his soul and feelings were doing was being mediated through his conscious, writerly mind (writers, well, edit their souls and feelings to make them a) sellable and b) worth reading/performing) and his actors’ memories, and then through editors who take a little from this quarto and a little from that folio and call it a play.

  56. Carolyn
    February 16, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve seen the VM 4 times, and completely agree with many of the critiques leveled above. But when I have seen this piece performed, it has been by a broad diversity of young women, all of whom have been given an opportunity they would not otherwise have to discuss issues pertaining to women’s bodies. It is “second-wavey” but that is part of its value in our current feminist backlash, when body positivity, self-knowledge, language reclamation, and other second-wave accomplishments are falling by the wayside. The young women I saw perform this year must have the opportunity to discuss these issues, and I honestly believe the VM is, at present, their best option for that.

    I guess I just can’t get my head around the idea of taking the VM away from my students when I don’t have something that’s as compelling, as provocative, and as accessible to give them. I don’t think Kill Bill is the alternative – does anyone have more viable suggestions?

  57. February 17, 2012 at 8:29 am

    There are plenty of other things to critique about the VM, but, frankly, the arguments that VM doesn’t appeal to young audiences is bunk. I first saw it performed at my college (I graduated in 2008), where they performed it every year. The auditions were pretty competitive. They also played to a full house. We always did the monologue “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy”…I didn’t realize that there was a version without it. And there was always discussion about it, at least among my friends. Even the not-so-feminist-IDing ones.

  58. Donna L
    February 17, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Just out of curiosity, Shoshie, did your college’s productions actually use trans women to perform that monologue? If so, then I guess times must be changing. As recently as 7 or 8 years ago, I would have been very surprised to hear that there were more than one or two dozen out trans women (at the very most) at all the colleges in the USA put together; 98% of all the out trans people in college seemed to be trans guys.

  59. EG
    February 17, 2012 at 9:34 am

    it’s better then the ‘sit on your hands and wait’ theme of most classic fairytales.

    You mean most Disney versions of fairy tales.

  60. Donna L
    February 17, 2012 at 10:45 am

    Wait, other than the person who wants to replace it with Kill Bill, did anyone suggest that the VM should be taken away from students or not performed anymore? I certainly didn’t (since I’m assuming that the “good rape” monologue doesn’t have to be performed, at least in its original form). It just isn’t for me, that’s all.

  61. Politicalguineapig
    February 17, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Shoshie: Heh, we must be about the same age. I graduated in 2008 too. I saw the Vagina Monologues once, but my college’s version didn’t have the added monologue.

    Carolyn: It is “second-wavey” but that is part of its value in our current feminist backlash, when body positivity, self-knowledge, language reclamation, and other second-wave accomplishments are falling by the wayside.

    Part of that backlash is due to the navel-gazing that many second-wavers were prone to. The language does not need to be reclaimed, bodies are simply meatsacks with differentiated plumbing, and self-knowledge isn’t neccesary. I don’t need to know how I work, I need to know how other people work and how I can use their weaknesses against them.Being a woman in the world is like being in a judo tournament all day every day.
    The second wave feminists inadvertently hobbled feminists by being far too willing to embrace non-violence. The majority only changes it’s mind when faced with the threat of violence. The backlash will continue as long as feminists refuse to use violence.

  62. Computer Soldier Porygon
    February 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    “The language does not need to be reclaimed, bodies are simply meatsacks with differentiated plumbing, and self-knowledge isn’t neccesary”

    no u

  63. Catherine
    February 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    The second wave feminists inadvertently hobbled feminists by being far too willing to embrace non-violence. The majority only changes it’s mind when faced with the threat of violence. The backlash will continue as long as feminists refuse to use violence.

    Srsly? No one’s moderating this out? In a supposedly safe feminist space?

  64. EG
    February 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    The language does not need to be reclaimed, bodies are simply meatsacks with differentiated plumbing, and self-knowledge isn’t neccesary.

    Ok, language isn’t important, bodies aren’t important, and I’m not important. But violence, that’s important. Gotcha. It’s not like language, bodies, or ignorance about oneself have been weapons of mass destruction when it comes to misogyny or anything.

    You’d never know that second-wave feminism was actually a wildly successful movement–or did you think that there have been such radical changes in conditions for women since the 1950s due to sheer coincidence?

  65. Politicalguineapig
    February 17, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    EG: I’ll admit, the second-wave feminists did do some good. But it wasn’t nearly enough, and they weren’t persistent enough to make sure that the changes were permanent- or in some cases, that the changes were more than superficial. And a few of them deliberately betrayed feminism by collaborating with right-wing movements. (Dworkin, MacKinon, and Daley, for instance. Though in Daley’s case it was more of an accident.)

    Catherine: A hobble is a device that limits mobility. I deliberately chose a non-ablist word. As for the rest of it, what’s wrong with violence? Men believe it’s a-ok to use violence against women, so why isn’t it okay to fight back?

  66. A. Bailin
    February 17, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    Re: the discussion of Kill Bill and violence vs non:

    OK, folks, can we dial it back here a moment and remember that we’re all on the same side and that there are multiple ways of accomplishing a goal? And that we don’t necessarily all have to take the same approach.

    I am not a strict pacifist, nor am I a general advocate of violence. I think there are times when force is needed. But I also think it’s downright tragic that some people categorically equate strength and power with violence. I will even go so far as to say that one of the great strengths of feminism has been our conviction that we do not have to fight by the established, patriarchal rules (including resorting to physical force in order to make a point).

    (Politicalguineapig: I feel you are verging on trolling here. Nonviolence and introspection are not the same thing as navel-gazing, and have changed the lives of countless women in important ways. If those methods don’t work for you, that’s ok, but please remember that not everyone feels the same way you do about being a woman, and have some respect for those who came before you and the work they did to create the world you grew up in. BTW, I don’t know where you are from: I acknowledge that my response is pretty USA-centric).

  67. A. Bailin
    February 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    He said: that sex scene is coercion. I said: not many women can claim that their first sex experience ISN’T coercive!

    I didn’t have the language or theory or support to really articulate my issue back then. But as disturbing as the monologue is, I’ve always been glad it’s there. It’s complicated. It depicts a relationship in which there is a severe power imbalance, but the younger character actively desires the encounter, enjoys it, and it is the first positive sexual experience she has. This does not erase its complicated and maybe even sinister overtones. But the story allows that even in less than ideal circumstances, less than empowered circumstances, and even after a series of violent intrusions, a female body can still desire and feel pleasure. That character is a survivor, and I want to see her story told.

    I’m quoting this because it is really important and well-said.

    It’s been a while since I saw/read that monologue, so I confess to being fuzzy on the details. From what I’ve heard here, it does sound like it depicts a rape.

    BUT: it also sounds like it depicts an experience that, in one way or another, many of us had: that of being young and confused and, perhaps to our shame or at least further confusion, enjoying a sexual experience in which we were, essentially, exploited. And then having to figure out how to frame the experience to ourselves afterward.

    And no, not all of us found ourselves damaged by having been taken advantage of. To deny or silence these stories is another form of victim-blaming, perhaps as harmful as minimizing the pain of those who were brutalized by such experiences. No one should ever tell someone else how they “should” feel about a given sexual experience.

  68. really?
    February 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Can anyone explain why politicalguineapig hasn’t been banned?

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/comments-policy/

  69. Chiara
    February 18, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Can anyone explain why politicalguineapig hasn’t been banned?

    Cos she ain’t really done anything wrong?

    What about a movie like Thelma and Louise? I think people can really relate to that because it’s a classic. And it’s sex-positive because, Brad Pitt, hello. Also, it’s Ridley Scott directed…

    What do you peeps think of Alien btw? That’s quite feminist. Sigourney Weaver was totally ripping it up there. Especially for the 80s, because a lot of antifeminist Michael Douglas bullshit was coming out at that time too. Alien 3 and 4 is a bit meh though. Although 4 is a little bit interesting.

  70. EG
    February 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I love Alien, but I think its feminism is no longer particularly transgressive–in its relationship to gender, it’s essentially a slasher flick, and Ripley is the Final Girl. I make an exception for what I still find the most frightening scene in the movie, when Ash tries to kill Ripley, and tries to do by choking her with a porn magazine. Props for that. Aliens is my favorite, though its gender-interest for me lies in the character of Vasquez.

    I don’t recognize the existence of the other two.

    I also love Thelma and Louise, but I’m not sure I’m happy with the idea of young women’s first introduction to feminism being a text that contains no non-white characters of any consequence and ends in the [SPOILER ALERT] suicide of the protagonists. What kind of hope or plan for action does that offer?

    I’ll admit, the second-wave feminists did do some good. But it wasn’t nearly enough, and they weren’t persistent enough to make sure that the changes were permanent- or in some cases, that the changes were more than superficial.

    Gee, that’s fucking big of you, to admit that second-wave feminists did do “some” good. Listen: my life would be difficult and worse in every conceivable way if not for second-wave feminism. I wonder if you’ve spoken at length to a woman in her 60s or 70s about what life was like for girls and women–even the most privileged–prior to second-wave feminism. I have.

    But gee, they didn’t do enough? Can you name me a social movement that has?

    And the changes weren’t permanent? By which you mean, the backlash and rollbacks have been huge? I guess that means that the labor movement has only done “some” good as well, given the backlash and rollbacks it’s been on the receiving end of.

    Get a clue. The backlash and rollbacks wouldn’t be so big if second-wave feminism hadn’t been such a real threat.

  71. Politicalguineapig
    February 19, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Really?: You aren’t a moderator, and I don’t appreciate being policed from the sidelines. If the moderators of this blog tell me I’m stepping over the lines, I will modify my comments accordingly. Until then, can you and Catherine stop sifting for outrages? If you really want to be offended, just tell me, and I’ll be as offensive as you like :)

  72. A. Bailin
    February 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I’ve seen the VM 4 times, and completely agree with many of the critiques leveled above. But when I have seen this piece performed, it has been by a broad diversity of young women, all of whom have been given an opportunity they would not otherwise have to discuss issues pertaining to women’s bodies….
    ….I honestly believe the VM is, at present, their best option for that.

    I guess I just can’t get my head around the idea of taking the VM away from my students when I don’t have something that’s as compelling, as provocative, and as accessible to give them. I don’t think Kill Bill is the alternative – does anyone have more viable suggestions?

    This comment, too, makes a very good point.

    There are, I think, a few empowering movies about women out there (“Iron-Jawed Angels” for example, or even “Fried Green Tomatoes” or “The Color Purple”), but a movie is not an interactive experience that women can get involved in. And they don’t show a wide diversity of female experiences either.

    Lydia Sargent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lydia_Sargent) has some plays that might do, but most of them are aimed at a somewhat older female audience.

    The closest thing I’ve seen to something as empowering in a ide variety of ways is a collection of essays called “That Takes Ovaries!” (…and the internet tells me there IS a screenplay version available! http://thattakesovaries.org/htmls/homepage.html). But it’s about women’s minds and hearts, more than their bodies. Perhaps the two performances would compliment each other well, but not replace one another.

  73. Chiara
    February 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    ‘Battlestar Galactica’ is supposed to be alright, likes. Allegedly there’s a woman who smokes cigars, totally mashes stuff up. I haven’t seen it because I can’t be bothered to download it. But I guess it’s also not exactly suitable as a thing for people in college to watch because it’s an entire TV show.

    I saw someone said that Vag Monologues is ciscentric. Many years ago I saw a film about a trans man, based on a true story as far as I know, that I thought was very good but also very sad. Do you peeps think it’s a valuable film w.r.t. respect to trans stuff (or at least for trans men) — or is it nonsensey, like that CSI episode?

  74. Politicalguineapig
    February 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    EG: Well, explain this to me: After the whole women-getting-jobs-and finally saying goodbye to the house, why did Christian fundamentalism come back a bare decade after the feminist movement? Why are Kate Roiphe and Rebecca Walker little more then happy baa-sheep housewives clamoring for women to get back in the house and lock the doors behind them?Why do men still rape and get away with it?
    Why do we have Rick Santorum running on a virulently anti-women platform? Worse, Santorum is a serious candidate, thanks to the baaing Quiverfull and other church sheep.
    Because second-wave feminists had poor social skills and forgot to raise their daughters up along with them. They forgot to tell women that God hates them, so stop going to church. They forgot to tell women to embrace violence and take over police departments. They let needless schisms develop; so women of color and trans women won’t join the movement, even if they approve of the causes.
    Soooo yeah, the second wave delegation spent a bit too much time on introspection, and not enough on practical shit. The practical stuff did get done, I’ll give them that, but it was built on foundations of sand, so it’s no wonder that my generation will grow up in a world where birth control is a memory.

  75. karak
    February 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    @Politicalguineapig:

    I don’t always agree with you, and I don’t necessarily agree with all your criticisms of 2nd-wave feminism, but it feels SO DAMN GOOD to see someone else who actually has some real, literal fight in them.

    The conflation of pacifism and feminism has always confused and honestly saddened me. It seems to have little actual philosophical thought behind it, and more internalizing the culture of appeasement and tone argument.

  76. EG
    February 20, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Because second-wave feminists had poor social skills and forgot to raise their daughters up along with them. They forgot to tell women that God hates them, so stop going to church. They forgot to tell women to embrace violence and take over police departments.

    Oh, there’s nothing more feminist than a good round of mommy-blaming. Did second-wave feminism not solve all your problems? Poor you. I’m so sorry your mommy didn’t clean the whole house and now you have some work left to do. Name me one social movement that accomplished all necessary work and pre-emptively took care of any potential backlash in one generation. I’m curious.

    And how many second-wave feminists do you know? It was not a unified movement, you know. Plenty of far-left second wavers advocated smashing the family and the state, and they didn’t mean through non-violence. Plenty of second-wave feminists did break with religion. They clashed, they argued, they split, and they took different approaches because they disagreed.

    Maybe all those terrible things you list happened because the patriarchal establishment is powerful and fought back. I know it’s not as much fun to accept that sometimes you can fight the good fight and take the right positions and still not achieve total victory as it is to blame bad mommies for not taking care of their daughters (and speak for yourself; my second-wave mother brought me up with her) and having poor social skills (and what the fuck does that even mean?).

    They let needless schisms develop; so women of color and trans women won’t join the movement, even if they approve of the causes.

    Again, find me a social movement without needless schisms. Just one. I’ll be here waiting, but I suspect that I know a touch more about the history of leftist social/political movements than you do, and I can’t think of a single one.

    Schisms developed because people had and have very real disagreements about ideology and practice. Perhaps you think the Grand Poohbah of Second-Wave Feminism should have had all the adherents hypnotized so that they never disagreed about things? Maybe at one of the Grand International Second-Wave Meetings?

    You’re creating schisms here yourself, by condemning second-wave feminists. Think of all the second-wavers and those who appreciate them whom you’re alienating. Think of all the women who would support feminist causes you alienate every time you come out with one of your bizarre, evidence-less generalizations about men. People disagree about important things, often passionately. Welcome to the world.

    Soooo yeah, the second wave delegation spent a bit too much time on introspection, and not enough on practical shit. The practical stuff did get done, I’ll give them that, but it was built on foundations of sand, so it’s no wonder that my generation will grow up in a world where birth control is a memory.

    So they didn’t spend enough time on practical shit, but the practical shit got done. What was it, then, besides practical shit, that they should have been doing? Not empowering women through knowledge about their bodies. Not changing the language to reflect women’s realities and experiences. Not, God forbid, helping themselves via introspection. What, precisely, in all your wisdom, do you think they should have done?

    You can’t avoid schisms, for instance, without introspection, because schisms are about ideological disagreements, and in order to resolve disagreements, if that’s even possible, you have to understand why you hold the position you do. Guess what that requires?

    Above you said that the problem was that second-wavers weren’t nice enough–they lacked social skills. Personally, I think this is a load of bullshit, but let’s go with it. Are you saying second-wavers should have gone to charm school or something, and then there would never have been any backlash?

    You’re castigating the second wave for not driving the train when they’re the ones who laid the track. I’m so sorry you weren’t born into a perfect world. It’s so much easier to blame it on women, isn’t it, than on the men who oppress them.

  77. Politicalguineapig
    February 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    Karak: Yeah, that never made sense to me either. Especially since the first wave wasn’t very pacifistic at all. While they did use some non-violent techniques like marching and hunger strikes, they were aggressively non-violent. That is, they didn’t actually try to hurt anybody, but rocks were thrown and property was destroyed.
    The second-wave really suffered from a lack of gifted speakers, as well. Susan B Anthony and a lot of her cohorts could use words as whips; the second-wave didn’t have any orators at her or Sojourner Truth’s level.
    The Civil Rights Movement, at the same time as the second wave, mainly succeeded because the only alternative was violence- you’d think someone in the feminist camp could have taken notice of the other movements of the day.
    My only explanation is that the second wave feminists couldn’t shake off the cultural conditioning that violence was a ‘male’ tactic.

  78. EG
    February 21, 2012 at 12:50 am

    you’d think someone in the feminist camp could have taken notice of the other movements of the day.

    You really know absolutely nothing about second-wave feminism, do you? It was born out of the civil rights movement and the new left. Second-wave feminists were intimately involved with the other movements of the day. What did you think, it just happened to take place at the same time? The whole reason non-violence was such a popular tactic was because of its successful use in the Civil Rights Movement.

  79. LotusBen
    February 21, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Gosh politicalguineapig, you really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you? Second Wave feminism was decentralized, global, diverse–and probably one of the most successful progressive social movements in human history. It was directly responsible for:

    **Legalized abortion throughout the entire Western world.

    **No-fault divorce laws in all 50 states–in other words women can now choose to leave an unhappy marriage any time they want to without having to “prove” in a court of law that they deserve out.

    **A widespread infrastructure of rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters to help women who are victims of abuse when the government and other community institutions won’t help them (which is most of the time).

    **For the first time in human history, laws that recognize that married women can be raped by their husbands.

    **Women and girls actually being able to wear the same clothes as men! When my mom was in school in the mid-50s through the mid-60s, the girls were required to wear skirts, dresses, etc. Now girls, of course, are allowed to wear pants to school no problem.

    **Women weren’t allowed to attend Yale until 1969. They weren’t allowed to attend Harvard until 1977. They weren’t allowed to attend Columbia until 1983. And the sexist douchebag men who ran these universities didn’t decide to start letting women out of the goodness of their sexist douchebag hearts but because of the social power of Second Wave feminism.

    This is just a small fraction of the changes pushed through by Second Wave feminists. . .I’m realizing I just need to just pick an arbitrary stopping point for this list of accomplishments because otherwise I could just go on and on and on and on. As you can see, the Second Wave was hardly merely obsessed with navel gazing or whatever you were saying. The Second Wave was fucking organized. There were consciousness raising groups across the country in every neighborhood. And they changed the world.

    If there is any “wave” of feminism that hasn’t accomplished much, that would be the Third Wave. But it’s not the fault of Third Wave feminists. A culture of reaction and oppressive governmental, religious, and business institutions have really been able to consolidate their power over Western society during the past three decades, for a whole host of reasons, and it has made progress difficult on a lot of fronts. The answer to this isn’t to villify feminists (from the Second Wave or otherwise). The answer, in my opinion, is the same as it’s always been: to fight back and keep trying to smash the patriarchy.

  80. EG
    February 21, 2012 at 10:45 am

    And to add to Ben’s list, let me note that prior to second-wave feminism, want-ad were segregated by sex: “Help Wanted – Women” and “Help Wanted – Men.” Women were paid less for doing the same work under the same conditions. Women were routinely fired when they got married and/or pregnant.

  81. EG
    February 21, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I also find it amusing that you castigate second-wave feminists for alienating black women (thus erasing all the non-white women involved in second-wave feminism, but whatever, I guess) while extolling the virtues of the first wave. Because, sure, there were a bunch of women who made their black sistren feel super welcome and valued.

  82. Emolee
    February 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    I want to thank EG and LotusBen for pointing out the very real progress that second-wave feminists made, progress that most if not all women in the U.S. and other Western countries take advantage of today. It is too easy and disingenuous to criticize second wave feminists as “frumpy” or “navel gazers” or whatever without thinking genuinely about what your life would likely be like without them.

    Obviously, feminists should look at the past and the present to see how we as a movement can improve, such as being more inclusive of women of color and trans women and men. However, it is another thing entirely to condemn an entire movement, such as second -wave feminism because it was imperfect.

    I am personally very grateful to the second wave feminists.

  83. Politicalguineapig
    February 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    LotusBen: So I guess Spain, Poland, Ireland and Northern Ireland aren’t part of the west? Cause abortion still isn’t legal in Northern Ireland or Poland, and has only been recently legalized in Spain and Ireland.
    EG: To be fair, neither wave was particularly welcoming to black women. Though, I think the suffragettes were still rather steamed that the Powers that be thought that black men voting was more palatable then women voting. Then the North got wimpy about the South and the status quo returned. I still think that the second wave wasted a valuable opportunity by assuming that non-violent techniques would work. They only worked for the Civil Rights Movement because everyone EXPECTED the movement to be violent, and well, Malcolm X and the Panthers were the alternative.

  84. EG
    February 28, 2012 at 1:38 am

    Malcolm X and the Panthers (1966) came along rather later in the Civil Rights Movement, well after King and the non-violent tactics had achieved some degree of success (Freedom Summer was in 1964, as was the Civil Rights Act). I agree that the specter of armed black revolution has haunted the racists in power in this country since the Haitian Revolution, but I think you are sorely underestimating the amount of hatred and fear there was for King’s radicalism. King and SNCC were not perceived as the “friendly” alternative. They were terrifying.

    And Poland is not part of the West–it’s part of Eastern Europe. Abortion is not legal in the Republic of Ireland; nor is it legal in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, I think you’re splitting hairs. The legality of abortion in the vast majority of Western countries is directly attributable to the success of second-wave feminism. Insofar as that normalized abortion rights, making it a signal issue, second-wave feminists changed the political discourse for everybody.

  85. LotusBen
    February 28, 2012 at 2:33 am

    Ditto to EG said. You’re nitpicking politicalguineapig. Ireland is the most conservative and Catholic country in all of Western Europe. Poland is the most conservative and Catholic country in all of Eastern Europe. So they are the exceptions that prove the rule. I’d still say that’s a pretty good track record for the Second Wave!

    Also, Spain was a theocratic, Catholic, fascist dictatorship until 1975, so it took a bit of time after that for its political culture to catch up to the rest of the West in terms of progressiveness. So, again, weak evidence for your case.

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