The Dialogue on the Monologues

In the course of our voluminous reading of the news we’ll occasionally run across one of those little items that seems to neatly illustrate a far bigger story. Such was the report that Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts has cancelled a planned performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a seemingly inconsequential bit of far-off-Broadway show biz news that not only confirms the cultural contradictions of liberalism but also further confirms our longstanding suspicion that the world has gone completely mad.
The impeccably up-to-date college didn’t cancel the performance because “The Vagina Monologues” is the most over-rated and over-done piece of sexual agitprop in the liberal repertoire, of course, and naturally it wasn’t because they aspire to a higher ideal of theater than a uninteresting group of women sitting around talking about their private parts. Instead the women-only institution objected because the play is “exclusionary” toward the “transgendered community” and might offend women who do not have vaginas. We checked several reliable sources to make sure that we weren’t falling prey to some satirical web site’s fanciful hoax, and apparently this is actually the reason that Mount Holyoke College won’t be staging “The Vagina Monologues.”

We confess to certain amount of schadenfreude toward “The Vagina Monologues,” as we never much cared for the work and have long fretted that its strange status among the intelligentsia as feminism’s greatest gift to the canon of western drama was a worrisome cultural development. The play has been relentlessly performed in venues from every elegant tax-subsidized theater to every community playhouse in the smallest hick towns, with everyone from Hollywood actresses aspiring for intellectual responsibility to hometown housewife thespians with the same lofty goal clamoring for a role, and its ubiquity on the American stage is such that we once wound up interviewing its playwright as part of our chores as the theater critic for a local newspaper. She was quite charming and interesting to speak with, and she even laughed at our joke about how we hadn’t seen “The Vagina Monologues” because we don’t care for ventriloquism, but we believe the conversation was so enjoyable largely because for the most part the conversation steered away from vaginas. The topic quickly exhausts its interest for most people, men or women, with or without vaginas, and we don’t feel the least bit sexist for saying so. We’ve worked enough construction jobs to have endured two hours of men talking about their genitalia, and neither did we much enjoy those monologues.
Still, it’s also a worrisome cultural development when the women without vaginas can exercise a heckler’s veto against the performance of a play. Despite our wide travels and broad range of experience we’ve never met a woman without a vagina, so far as we know, and we suspect this segment of the “transgendered community” is approximately the size of Kechi, Kansas, even if it does seemingly stretch from Mount Holyoke College to the trendier districts San Francisco, so it hardly seems democratic that such a small population should be able to determine the nation’s playbills. Next thing you know the men without testicles will demand the same power of censorship, and judging by almost everything else we encounter in our voluminous reading of the news they compromise a far greater percentage of the country. America’s theater, cinema, literature, music, and political discourse have already grown bland enough, and one shudders to think of the North Korean-style pep rallies we’ll be left when the offerings at even the local college theater have been chosen by the prize-winner of the most oppressed minority group contest.
We anticipate a meaningful dialogue on the cultural about the race, class, and gender implications of post-modern feminism generally and “The Vagina Monologues” specifically, with everyone trying to establish the dominant narrative regarding womanhood and empowerment and the empowering nature of womanhood and its genitalia and whether women should really enjoy that genitalia along their womanhood lest they give offense to some other woman who doesn’t possess the same genitalia, probably due to Republican budget cuts and the Koch Brothers, and we expect that no one will acknowledge the longstanding conservative criticism that a woman’s identity should not be defined by her genitalia, and we are certain it will be quite vicious and divisive. A well-thought think piece over at the cheeky web site recently examined the schisms in the cultural left, from the consistent atheists vs. the atheists who make an exception for Islam to the free speech absolutists who condemn the murder of a French satirical magazine to the free speech advocates who will make an multi-cultural exception for Islam, to which we would add the rift between the feminists who object to the forced clitoridectomies performed throughout much of the Islamic world and and the multiculturalists who would excuse such misogynistic behavior even as they object to men on construction sites talking about their genitalia, as well as a host of academic and culture issues that inevitably arise when people decide to abandon the past and create their own brave new worlds where reality is blithely ignored, and the schisms seem likely to widen.
Just a couple of weeks ago “The Vagina Monologues” was still the exemplar of modern feminism, and today it’s been condemned by the revolutionary cadres as too “exclusionary” for an all-women’s college. Such are the changing tides of public on the left. The right stays busy defending Shakespeare and mathematics and the Bible and all that dead white male detritus, but at least it doesn’t have to worry that this week’s progressive cause will be next week’s angry hashtag backlash from the more-progressive-than-thou types. In a world that has apparently gone crazy, this is somewhat reassuring.

— Bud Norman


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