Vagina Monologues Playwright Responds After Show Canceled for Not Being Trans-Inclusive
Mount Holyoke College, a liberal arts school for women in South Hadley, Mass., has canceled a scheduled performance of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues because it is not inclusive of transgender women, Campus Reform reports.
Ensler's popular play, which premiered in 1996, has been translated into 48 languages and performed in 140 countries. Based on interviews conducted with more than 200 women, it includes monologues about sex, menstruation, rape, birth, and more.
"At its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on on what it means to be a woman," wrote Erin Murphy, a representative of Mount Holyoke's student-run theater board, in an email. "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."
Mount Holyoke, which began admitting trans women and trans men last year, will instead stage trans-inclusive monologues written by students. The school's annual Valentine's Day performance is a fundraiser for the V-Day campaign, a nonprofit, founded by Ensler, committed to ending violence against women.
"The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman," Ensler told Time in response to the show's cancellation. "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."
Ensler also explained that a group of trans women staged the play in 2004, which inspired a new trans-centric monologue, They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy, that has since been made available for inclusion in performances. "Offering the 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 continued. "Trans women and trans men have been welcome to perform in The Vagina Monologues throughout its history."
Despite her disappointment, the playwright remains optimistic in the face of controversy. "I stand in solidarity with students at Mount Holyoke in their fight against transphobia," she said. "I believe this is a beautiful opportunity for us to hear each other's stories in this ever-evolving journey toward liberation."