SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. – The all-girls Mount Holyoke College recently canceled its scheduled performance of The Vagina Monologues because some contend it excludes transgender women.
The play was launched by Eve Ensler in 1996 based on interviews with 200 women about sex, menstruation, rape, birth and other taboo issues, and has grown increasingly popular on college campuses over the years.
“At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be women,” Erin Murphy, who sits on the school’s student-run theater board, told Advocate.com.
“Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”
Ensler responded to the shows cancelation in an interview with Time. She said the show is about what it means to have a vagina, not what it means to be a woman.
“The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a women,” she said. “It is and always has been a play about what it means to have a vagina. In the play, I never defined a woman as a person with a vagina.”
The issue about trans-inclusiveness is a big deal at Mount Holyoke because the school began admitting transsexual students last year. Instead of hosting The Vagina Monologues for the school’s annual Valentine’s Day fundraiser, students “will instead state trans-inclusive monologues written by students,” Advocate reports.
The money raised goes to Ensler’s nonprofit V-Day campaign, which combats violence against women.
Holyoke announced the change in a campus-wide email, according to Campus Reform.
“Replacing the play will be Mount Holyoke’s own version that will be trans-inclusive and fix the ‘problems’ supposedly perpetuated by Ensler. Murphy also claims that there are problems with race, class, and ‘other identities’ within the play,” Campus Reform reports.
“The new production, comprised of students’ monologues, will be performed in a fashion reminiscent of the feminist classic. The program will be performed alongside the College’s Peer Health Educators, an on-campus student-led group that provides education and workshops for students, including a workshop on how to use sex toys properly.”
Ensler told Time trans women staged The Vagina Monologues in 2004, which inspired a trans-centered version: They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy.
“Offering the (trans-centered) monologue to our activists around the world was a deliberate decision on my part to encourage communities to address the needs and realities of the transgender community,” she said. “Trans women and trans men have been welcome to perform in The Vagina Monologues throughout its history.”
Several student spoke out about the situation on Holyoke Confessional, the college’s anonymous message board.
“I love how people who have never been able to discuss or embrace their vaj-wahs aren’t going to find an avenue here, either, since female-validating talk about vaginas is now forbidden. That’s so misogynistic under the guise of ‘progress,’” one student wrote, according to Campus Reform.
“But we can’t present a show that is blatantly transphobic and treats race and homosexuality questionably, when one of the conditions of getting the rights to the show is that you can’t critique it or alter it,” posted another.