Eve Ensler wrote a fabulous piece of theatre called the Vagina Monologues twenty years ago. I saw it with a friend at the Meyer Horowitz theatre on the University of Alberta campus. It made me cry, it made me smile, and it made me think.
This recent article indicates that she, and the work, have been accused of not being ‘inclusive’.
This touches on a distinction that bothers me. It is appropriately a pedant issue too, because it involves the precise interpretation of two related words. High five for living up to my blog’s name once in a while. YAY!
It can also be directly tied back to my previous posts via one common rebuttal of feminism – “What about men’s rights” Low five for sticking to a theme? …
Here’s my issue: Just because something is not included does not mean it was excluded. Inclusion involves choosing what is IN a set. Exclusion involves deciding something should not be in a set. For reasons of pragmatism or availability of information or timing of message, IN choices can leave things un-included. But that does not mean they were deemed un-includable for broad purposes. They can be brought into discussion and can benefit from awareness generated about an issue even if they were not originally in the set.
Eve Ensler herself says “The Vagina Monologues never intended to be a play about what it means to be a woman. 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.”
I am a woman. I also have a vagina. Specifically, I am a cis gender woman.
The Vagina Monologues addressed a specific issue, and for pragmatic reasons cis gender women were the IN set. The Vagina Monologues speak to me as a subset of humanity without denying the humanity of anyone not addressed by the specific words spoken on stage. This wonderful work is not called the ‘Woman Monologues’ and it doesn’t claim that the underlying themes are unique to women. Sadly violence, bigotry and intolerance are issues faced by many ‘sets’ within our species.
The issues faced by women and by LGBT people are similar, but not identical. All gender identifications face challenges when it comes to living their sexual identities. The set was chosen to give voice to one facet of broader human challenges. That it is applicable to a larger set of people and the challenges they face means that The Vagina Monologues can be used as the foundation upon which more discussion, change and progress can be built.
I am an ardent feminist, and logically by extension have also been an active advocate for LGBT rights. In my head one extends to the other; there is overlap and fluidity between the two groups and the challenges they face.
Bear in mind that when I talk about harassment of women or violence and sexual crimes against women I am speaking for myself from my own personal experience, but I would never dream of silencing your voice or minimizing your struggle. We are humanity, and we are in this together.