Skip to comments.Sex, Lies and the Vagina Monologues
Posted on 08/25/2004 1:05:17 AM PDT by kattracks
The following lecture by Christina Hoff Sommers was delivered on August 3, 2004 at the Young America's Foundation 26th Annual National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, DC.
(The text that follows contains adult language and themes and is intended for mature audiences only. Reader discretion is advised).
Several years ago, a radical feminist philosopher visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she gave a lecture attacking what she called male science. This theorist confidently explained that science was part of a discredited oppressive, patriarchal, white-male, bourgeois legacy. It was tainted to the core by sexism, classicism, and racism. Women, she concluded, must reinvent knowledge.
A well-respected British philosopher of science attended her lecture. Later, I asked him what he thought of it. He just shook his head and looked pained. I asked him whether he had raised any objections in the question and answer period. No," he said, "I am just hoping it will all go away."
Thats exactly how I felt when I saw the award-winning off-Broadway play The Vagina Monologues in New York City four years ago. I did not want to argue with anyone. I did not want to raise objections. I just wanted it to go away. But whereas my British colleague has had his wish granted (for the most part anyway the feminist attack on science has faded away), my wish certainly has not been granted. Far from going away, The Monologues (written by Eve Ensler) has become a worldwide phenomenon, and is enjoying unprecedented and growing success on college campuses. In 2004, the play was performed on more than 500 campuses across the county. It is now the centerpiece of a zealous campaign to replace Valentines Day -a day whose gentle theme is romantic love between men and women -- with V-day or Violence Against Women Day, --a day that raises awareness about all the horrible things males do to females. The campaign has been a huge success.
Ive brought with me a recording of The Monologues. What you are about to hear is Ensler herself introducing the play and talking about its impact. This segment lasts for less than a minute but it gives you a good sense of Enslers mindset and sensibility. Here she is presenting a list of what she considers to be remarkable and wonderful results of her play - she calls them vagina occurrences.
(Tape was played)
Glenn Close gets 2,500 people to stand and chant the word cunt.
A woman rabbi sends me a hamantasch (a food) and describes
its vaginal meanings.
There is now a Cunt Workshop at Wesleyan University.
A young man makes and serves me a vagina salad for dinner with his
parents in Atlanta, Georgia. Bean sprouts are pubic hair.
Ill stop the tape with the vagina salad. I dont even want to know what the dressing was supposed to be.
OK. Now before I explain why I find the play to be so bad, and why the angry V-Day crusade it has inspired is dangerous and depressing, I want to acknowledge that The Vagina Monologues has made one valuable contribution to society. Ensler has used it to raise vast sums of money toward the cause of fighting violence against women, both in the United States and throughout the world. Nothing I say here today should be taken as criticism of her humanitarian work, which is vitally needed and admirable.
But I am not here to talk about the good works of the plays author. I am here to talk about the play itself about its intrinsic merit and its effect on college women who take it seriously. Just because V-Day raises funds for good causes does not exempt it from critical evaluation. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the separatist and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam, has raised large amounts of money for some worthy ends. But that does not place him or his crusade of hatred beyond criticism. The same is true of Enlser and her play and her army of followers.
The play itself consists of several monologues, which are distilled from more than 200 interviews Ensler conducted with women on the topic of their vaginas. At the Off-Broadway production I attended, the theater concession stand sold lollipops and cookies in the shape of a womens well, take a wild guess. The young man who ushered me to my seat wore a nametag that read, Hi, I am Vagina Larry. The theater was packed with women who laughed riotously at each mention of the v-word -- which was more than 100 times.
I have so many objections to the play it is hard to know where to start. Ill limit myself to three. 1) It is atrociously written. 2) It is viciously anti-male; and 3) and, most importantly, it claims to empower women, when in fact it makes us seem desperate and pathetic.
First, a few words about the writing. Ensler begins each monologue with a description of the themes she wishes to develop. Here she is, for example, introducing a montage of voices on the theme of -- that time of the month.
"I interviewed many women about menstruation. There was a choral thing that began to occur, a kind of wild collective song. Women echoed each other. I let the voices bleed into one another. I got lost in the bleeding." (The Vagina Monologues, New York: Random House, 2001, p.33)
Not the subtlest of metaphors.
Another monologue concerns a woman who says she discovered her true self when she looked at her vagina in a mirror during a vagina workshop. Here are some excerpts:
"My vagina amazed me. I couldnt speak when it came my turn in the workshop. I was speechless. I had awakened to what the woman who ran the workshop called 'vaginal wonder.' P.46
"It was better than the Grand Canyon, ancient and full of grace...It made me laugh...It was the morning." P.46
"The woman who ran the workshop told me my clitoris was not something I could lose. It was me, the essence of me. It was both the doorbell to my house and the house itself. I didnt have to find it. I had to be it. Be it. Be my clitoris." P.49
And my personal favorite:
"My vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny. I am arriving as I am beginning to leave. My vagina, my vagina, me." P.50
Now, world literature abounds with exquisite passages describing female sexual rapture -- from the verses of the dazzling Sixth century poetess Sappho, to Mollys Soliloquy in the final passages of James Joyces Ulysses. In my humble opinion, My vagina is a shell, a tulip, and a destiny does not qualify as one of them.
My second and more serious objection is the plays relentless hostility to men. The Vagina Monologues features a
Wall Street Journal, February 25, 2000, sec. A., p. 19.)
men whoSo I guess Ensler's message is this: It's only MOST
romantic scene in the play takes place between a 24-year-old woman and a young girl (who in the original version was 13-years-old, but in more recent versions has become 16.) The woman invites the young girl into her car, takes her to her house, plies her with vodka, and seduces her. What might seem to be a scene from a public service kidnapping prevention video shown to schoolchildren becomes, in Enslers play, a love story.only
Which brings me to another point. Ensler does not shy away from including very young children in her obsession. She says, on page 103, I asked a six-year-old girl: What does your vagina smell like? And Whats special about your vagina? To the second question, the little girl replied: Somewhere deep inside it I know it has a really smart brain. Enslers reported interviews are suspect. One finds it hard to believe that a first grader is talking about things that are somewhere deep inside. One finds it harder to believe that the girls parents would allow their six-year-old daughter to be interrogated about her vagina. Imagine a male counterpart to this story, a middle-aged man asking 6-year-old boys what was special about their penises. He would likely find himself on the local sex-offender registry.
But perhaps the most appalling and insulting aspect of the V-Day phenomenon is the way in which it demeans and weakens women even as it claims to empower us. Empower. Thats the buzz-word for this play. You cant read a story or interview about The Monologues without hearing how terrifically ctresses seem to be exceptionally carried away with this idea. You dont just hook-up with Eve. You become part of her crusade. Theres a core of us who are Eves army. .
Hundreds of colleges throughout the country now host V-Day celebrations every year on or around Valentines Day. At Brown, (where V-Day is celebrated as if it were a religious holiday) festivities have included vulva puppet workshops and sex for one seminars, along with countless performances of the Monologues to sold-out ecstatic crowds. Wesleyan hosted "cunt workshops," and Penn State held a "cunt-fest."The publisher of The Vagina Monologues says that it has become the Bible of a new generation of young women.
The latest published edition of The Monologues includes letters from excited students describing V-Day. Mary from Michigan State University tells how the rehearsal room for the play was next to a history conference:
I think they were a little shocked to hear Crista screaming CUNT, CUNT!! SAY IT! SAY IT! CUNT, CUNT!! Say it! Say it! . . . And when I did the triple surprise orgasm moan, well, lets just say they heard that loud and clear too! p.154
Here is Tyler from Cornell University:
I loved how I felt being part of a movement that empowers women...Because of the College Initiative, I said VAGINA at least a dozen times a day for two months and I was able to reclaim the word. Thank you, Eve! p.158
Now I hope youll join in me in asking: w
The woman who discovers that her clitoris is her essence and says, My vagina, me, is insulting herself, and all women.
I feel sorry for young women who consider themselves empowered because they have said the word vagina over and over again. I am sorry for girls who consider V-Day to be the high point of their college career. Some high point! College is the one period in your life when you can immerse yourself in the works of transcendent genius. It is a time to develop yourself by studying biology or astronomy or economics -- or learning Latin, or reading the history of philosophy. If you want to see genuine female empowerment, look at the work of Nobel Laureates such as Barbara McClintock and Rita Levi-Montalcini. Or, to mention my personal favorites, look at the astonishing achievements of two of the greatest field biologists of the 20th Century - both women: Diane Fosse and Jane Goodall.
Goodall radically transformed the field of primatolology by taking a very personal (some say conventionally female) approach to the chimpanzees she studied.
So what can we do? Sadly, Glenn Close is right: Ensler has an army. And, if your campus is typical, that army is gaining more recruits all the time. I urge you then to write op-eds or organize events that celebrate real heroism among women, and genuine female accomplishments.
And for heavens sake, do not let Eves Army hijack Valentines Day, a day that celebrates love and romance. Ensler and her minions have said, We proclaim Valentines Day as V-Day, until the violence against women stops. This is insane. Should we refrain from celebrating Thanksgiving until every hungry person around the world is fed? Should we hold back from Christmas until every child gets a present? Maybe we should transform Mothers Day into Mommie Dearest Day -- an occasion to raise awareness about child abuse. Recognizing that deep problems exist, and doing everything we can to alleviate them is laudable. Again, Ensler deserves praise for her efforts on that front. But bullying a nation into giving up one of its most charming and hopeful holidays does nothing to help women. Its a divisive and alienating cause. It is sheer demagoguery, and we should do what can to stand up to it.
So. Next Valentines Day, buy your girlfriend or boyfriend flowers or candy and a sweet card. See a movie, go out for a romantic dinner, respect each other, and have fun. If youre between boyfriends or girlfriends on Valentines Day, celebrate love anyway. Get together with some friends and watch a romantic move, like The Philadelphia Story, Casablanca, or Shakespeare in Love.
And one final word of advice: Stay away from Bob. Thank you.
Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC . Her books include Who Stole Feminism and The War Against Boys. She is a frequent lecturer at prep schools and on college campuses.
They're talking about a different Bob, right?
I have been aware of the play and of what a left-wing nut Eve Ensler is for a number of years. But many average Americans are quite unaware of what the play is really trying to promote. Actually most of the dialogue is too stupid to be taken seriously...except by the far-left liberal feminist elite and the easily brain-washed young women who think this ridiculous play really accomplishes anything except lowering IQs.
Don't they know we're at war? I'm beginning to think our country needs to implement some kind of mandatory military service for both men AND women. These female children have entirely too much time on their hands.
The worst thing that could ever happen to these swine would be for white men to tune in and drop out.
Is this the Bob that hawks the "natural male enhancement" product, Enzyte, I think it is, on TV?
If so, he's come a long ways, if his fawning wifes reactions are any indication.
These people are idiots.
from your earlier post, and its subliminal directive to make me go & look up what modus tollens is, im thinking you meant to say it that way.....
in which case, well done! it appears to be the typical leftist hypocrisy; trumpeting to the world how they favor "exposure", yet attacking, denigrating, and demagogue-ing whoever "exposes" them.
The sick part of this is having his parents there. And Eve Ensler.
Okay, so Sommers has identified one positive effect of Monologues on some women.
These women are all Democrats, and think John Kerry is "thoughtful".
Can't we just ditch Valentine's Day altogether? C'mon: it's the stupidest holiday of them all.
Seems I got into a lot of trouble for believing that back in college. I guess I was just too far ahead of my time
Oh, wait.... we can go on and on about how great sex is, but babies.... *shudder* Let's ignore the womb. We can't see *that* anyway.
What is it with these people? They crow about how great it is to be a woman, but spit on the most wonderful trick that only we can do. Grow babies!
Estrogen Fest For Losers.
Dont forget that feminism was created so ugly, boring women could have a social life too....
Christina Hoff Summers' book" Who Stole Feminism " is wonderful. For another similar opinion on the "Vagina Monologues" read Tammy Bruce's. " The Death of Right and Wrong."
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