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My "Monologues" Mini-Protest
February 11, 2003
by Bill Kuhl

This Valentine's day feminists across America will be presenting the play "The Vagina Monologues" as part of a protest known as "V-Day," essentially an attempt to breed contempt for men at a time usually reserved for love. This reminds me of a protest of my own, which essentially began at a staff Christmas party in December of '01:

Between sips of wine, a coworker rolled his eyes and said: "Hey everybody. 'The Veeeee Monologues' are in town this weekend." I immediately recalled a newspaper article I had seen a few days earlier on this particular production of "The Vagina Monologues." Promotion of the show had bordered on fervent, surprising for a conservative community like St. Louis. But the unusual amount of publicity was probably due to the show's cast, a New York-based trio that included award-winning TV and film actress Carol Kane.

Appropriately, this so-called "international phenomenon" was to be performed at Washington University, a school known for having had its ROTC building burned down in a '60s student protest. Because I've always been a pluralist and a staunch supporter of all people's rights," I felt compelled to stop by the theater the night after our party for my own little "mini-protest." (Sans matches or a lighter, mind you.)

During the Saturday, late-evening performance, with no one in the theater lobby, I walked around and posted a self-made flier in prominent places. In big letters going down the left side and bottom, the flier read, "No matter how you cut it, it's still hatred." I filled the remaining white space with about ten small printouts of the word "misandry," each one cut up diagonally, between the letters or in half vertically. (For the uninitiated, misandry means "hatred of men.")

I taped the fliers on posts, bulletin boards and doors, even the door to the backstage. And I purposely saved my last one for the large glass display case in the middle of the lobby, where I taped it right over the show's title. Imagining the extremely anti-male production going on just 50 feet behind me, I righteously thought, "Now this is a word that this crowd would do well to learn of." With a sense of satisfaction, I turned and marched off.

But as I was going for the door, I heard a voice inside me, possibly emanating from that "pluralist." "What if I'm wrong? What if the show really isn't all that bad?" I had to admit that I had only heard about bits and pieces of "The Vagina Monologues"; I had never actually seen it. My insatiable curiosity got the best of me. I decided to slip into the back of the theatre and just play dumb if anyone tried to stop me. Surprisingly, no one did. Relieved and feeling a bit brave, I moved forward and took a seat in the back row.

While chuckling at my unelaborate plan for dealing with ushers, I noticed something even more unelaborate, the show's staging. It consisted of three women sitting on bar stools in a row across the stage. They simply read or pretended to read, from what looked like scripts that they held in their laps. That was it. There was absolutely no interaction between the actresses. Oh, but there did appear to be some sort of color theme going on; all the lights, and I think even the stool pads, were in crimson. ("A-hemmm! ...crimson???)

When I first entered the theatre, the woman in the middle was reading something about how she had worked laboriously over the years to find her clitoris. I would have considered some of what she said funny ("My clitoris is me! ..... I am my clitoris!!!), had I not felt so sorry for her. I shook my head and thought, "Wildly imaginative obsessions with one's genitalia smack of a mental disorder, not comedy." Equally pathetic, the woman to her left reported that she had hated her vagina while growing up. So, naturally, she taught herself to imagine it as any one of a number of household items, "... a futon ... a rug ... a quilted potholder." She then informed the audience that by sleeping with a man, whom she "didn't particularly like," she actually became quite fond of her vagina. What struck me most about her rambling was that, throughout it, she seemed to be surprised that others weren't as obsessed with her vagina as she was. "Go figure," I quipped under my breath. And, unfortunately, both women laced their spiels with cheap shots at men.

At this point, the lights went down and slowly came back up on the woman to the audience's left, Kane. "Ah, perhaps some actual theatre," I thought. Holding up a newspaper clipping, Kane stated in a morbid tone, "In 1996 The New York Times reported that 80-100 million women in Africa have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)." There's no question that this is a barbaric practice, but the numbers struck me as a bit high. And I do know that significant progress has been made, such as in Egypt, where the country's highest court has banned this butchery. I also know that more and more Kenyan communities are opting for a ceremony in which "female circumcision" is only spoken of, not actually done. But no mention was made of these strides; Kane seemed only interested in shocking the audience, not updating them. (And speaking of "circumcision." If she really wanted to shock the audience, Kane should have told them that around the time her New York Times article came out, doctors in this country were just starting to use anesthesia when circumcising boys. Prior to the mid-'90's, circumcision was routinely done without anesthesia.)

Then our vagina-obsessed buddy on the other side of the stage tried to uppercut the audience with something about the "systematic" rape of tens upon tens of thousands of women in Kosovo. She continued by saying that she wanted to read "a letter from a Muslim woman," but I had already stopped listening. I was stuck on the word "systematic," which suggests that military commanders had women corralled and then rationed out to battalions of men who did whatever they wanted with them. I'm not doubting that, tragically, women were raped in the war in Kosovo, but stating that it was "systematic" buys into the militant feminist belief that men, as a group, approve of rape. Here was an issue being "cut" in a way that left a residue of "misandry." And, by the way, the recent extermination of certain groups of men in that region of the world was indeed "systematic." Just read the article, "Gendercide and Genocide," on gendercide.org. But, like the declining use of FGM and the routine circumcision of American boys without anesthesia, no mention was made of this. I'd heard enough, so I headed for the door.

On the way to my car, it hit me. "That isn't theatre!" There's nothing that draws the audience in; during portions of the show, they're just lectured to. There's no plot, no conflict or interaction of any kind, no visual effects (unless the crimson which I believe represented something I'd rather not say counted as a visual effect) and no real acting, just expressive readings. While slowly unlocking my car, I imagined a conversely male show about genitalia, which probably would have resulted in the "perverts" being booed off the stage.

If the rest of "The Vagina Monologues" is anything like the part I saw (and it probably is), the whole thing cheapens theatre as an art form. I wanted my money back, and I didn't even pay to get in. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I thought to myself, "I hope somebody reads my flier; it's got to be more entertaining than the show they just saw."

Copyright 2003 Bill Kuhl.

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