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

The Highest Form of McCarthyism

Being of a certain age, we can remember a time when liberalism prided itself on tolerance, dissent, and above all a tolerance of dissent. One needn’t be all that old to recall this bygone era, as it came to an abrupt end only six years or so ago.
The change was immediately and conspicuously noticeable, with all the “Question Authority” stickers adorning the bumpers of the shiny new hybrid cars and rusty fume-spewing VW microbuses replaced seemingly overnight with those dawn-of-a-new-age Obama logos. At the long-anticipated demise of the Bush administration dissent was no longer the highest form of patriotism, much less Pulitzer Prize-bait or a requirement for academic tenure, and questioning authority was suddenly regarded as a sign of dangerous anti-government extremism. The results still resonate in the headlines over stories datelined from New York to Hollywood and all points in between, and it’s becoming all too familiar.
After years of being subjected to self-congratulatory movies about the dark days of McCarthyism when Stalinist screenwriters and fashionably leftist actors were blacklisted for their boldly against-the-grain political opinions, we were naturally struck by two recent tales of Tinseltown. One concerned the comely actress Maria Conchita-Alonso being dumped from yet another performance of “The Vagina Monologues” because she had appeared an a campaign commercial for a candidate associated with the “Tea Party,” and the other was about the Internal Revenue Service’s heightened scrutiny of a group of conservative-leaning actors and other show-biz professionals. We can’t say we’ll miss Conchita-Alonso performance in “The Vagina Monologues,” as we’ve never been fans of ventriloquism, and we assume that club of Hollywood conservatives is quite small compared to other groups that have caught the attention of the IRS, but the irony of their fates is galling nonetheless. As a woman of both Cuban and Venezuelan ancestry Conchita-Alonso knows better than the most the rationale for the limited-government objectives of the Tea Party movement, those openly conservatives actors are far more defiantly non-conformist than anyone who was hauled before the House Un-American Activities ever were, and the lack of protest from their left-leaning peers is pure hypocrisy.
While on the subject of the movies, we also heard that the fellow who made a widely-distributed anti-Obama documentary has now been charged by the feds with making an illegal campaign contribution, something that never seemed to happen to the far more numerous documentarians who flooded the Oscar nomination ballots with celluloid anti-Bush screeds. We’ve already expressed our disappointment that the governor of New York has dis-invited us from visiting his fair state because our political views don’t align with his, but we we have since been further saddened to read that newly-inaugurated Sandanistan mayor of New York City has reiterated that we’re especially unwanted there. At least we’re not black, which would make our views even more slander-worthy to the head of North Carolina’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. If misfortune confined us to a wheelchair we would even expect to be mocked for it because of our political, as Texas gubernatorial candidate George Abbott was by the supporters of the eminently respectable but not-quite-accurate Democratic contender Wendy Davis. Throw in the recent fit that the homosexual lobby threw over some Louisiana redneck reality-show star’s crudely stated preference for vaginas over male anuses, and a pattern becomes clear.
Such liberal intolerance isn’t a recent phenomenon, of course, but it has become more brazen since liberalism seized power. We now encounter it routinely in our social encounters, even here in the Republican outpost of Kansas, and are still struck by the cocksureness of its conviction that whatever was said in the past some sorts of dissent simply should not be tolerated. It strikes us as a sort of narcissism, grounded in the belief that anyone who resists their noble efforts to create a paradise on earth must surely be an awful person deserving oppression, but it should be curable. Get another of those nasty Republicans back in the White House, or even the Senate Majority Leader’s chair, and questioning authority will be back on the bumpers and dissent will once again be the highest form of patriotism.

— Bud Norman