No rage has been more misdirected and more unproductive than that of those who refuse to support this year’s “Vagina Monologues: A Colorful Production.” It is a petulant, absurd, ignorant rage, and it threatens to undermine efforts to stop violence against women everywhere.
Variations on Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” are performed each February as part of a worldwide V-Day campaign to raise awareness about violence against women – all women. And this year’s take on the play will be no different.
The producers of this year’s “The Vagina Monologues,” one of whom happens to be a friend of mine, set out to compose a cast almost entirely of women of color because they felt strongly that women of color have been underrepresented or misrepresented in previous productions of the play. Many believe the play was designed unfairly to begin with, offering women of color only a few parts, which tend to be those of victims. The decision to use a “colorful cast” was made out of a desire to empower women of color and offer them a positive voice, not to disenfranchise or silence white women.
But predictably, the play has been met with charges of “reverse racism” and discrimination from all sides of the spectrum. Last week, the controversy continued as Law student Pierce Beckham filed a complaint with the Central Student Judiciary, arguing that the casting policy violates the University’s nondiscrimination policy and the 14th Amendment. Just two weeks before the curtain goes up, Beckham apparently wants to see this year’s V-Day celebration stopped.
It is true, of course, that healthy dialogue and robust debate make this campus a bastion of better ideas, and Beckham has every right to make his case. But as V-Day approaches and tickets go on sale, the rest of this campus should take note: The efforts of Beckham and those like him are not a call for equal rights under the law or a valiant effort against racial exclusion.
Beckham’s endeavors are nothing but the reactionary cries of an individual too embittered to understand the significance of a single production in a single year that shines the spotlight on groups of women whose voices have previously been driven to the margins and silenced. If he is truly interested in equal rights, I am sure there is a place for him at Men Against Violence Against Women, or at the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center.
One in three women worldwide will be beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime. Every 90 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in America. Women are 16 times more likely than men to be the victims of sexual violence. One woman is battered by her husband every 15 seconds. And according to the National College Women Sexual Victimization Study, one in four women will be raped or experience an attempted rape during her college years. If we boycott “The Vagina Monologues,” we boycott the empowerment of every woman on this campus.
Eve Ensler’s message is as relevant and important today as it was in 1998 when the play was first published. “I bet you’re worried. I was worried. That’s why I began this piece. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them. I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas – a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them – like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there.”
If you are worried about vaginas, do not allow Beckham and others like him to use race to divert our attention from V-Day and all that it represents. Over the past seven years, productions of Ensler’s play have generated more than $25 million dollars to support local, national and international organizations that support women, regardless of their race or ethnicity, religion or sexuality. And the empowerment of women that V-Day has helped foster simply cannot be measured.
So go ahead, buy your ticket today. Do it for the millions of women around the world who are abused and sexually assaulted each year, for the women who hold second-class citizenship in the human race. Do it for your mother, your girlfriend, your sister, your best friend or for yourself. But buy that ticket, because on Feb. 19 this campus needs to send a strong message to Beckham and others like him: The show will go on until the violence stops.
Gay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.