After viewing the Vagina Monologues twice, Max Robinson finds the production’s attitudes towards men troubling
Like a host of other colleges across the country, McDaniel put on the Vagina Monologues. This is the second year that I’ve seen the show and after having seen it twice, I can confidently say I find something troubling with one element of the show: its attitudes toward men.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I think that the show itself has noble aims and not only talks about female sexuality in a frank, uncompromising way but also raises an enormous amount of money for abuse victims every year.
These are great things. What I find alarming is how men are portrayed in the show. Not once in the two productions of the Vagina Monologues did I ever see a single healthy representation of a man. Now, of course, I’m not going to say that the show should portray all men in a positive light. That would be counterintuitive to what the show is trying to do. I’ll even say that it shouldn’t be expected that most men are positively portrayed.
But the fact remains that there is not a single “good man” and that to me seems like a serious step backwards in terms of gender equality. When men aren’t rapists or abusers in the show, they’re either too stupid to understand what a woman wants or just all around hateful towards their wife or daughter or whoever.
The one monologue that even approaches something resembling a “good” man in the show is the one about the bland, unordinary man who becomes attractive once the speaker discovered that he enjoyed looking at her vagina.
If this doesn’t immediately bother you, let’s look at this mono?logue with the genders reversed: a bland woman becomes attractive to a male speaker once he discovers that she loves looking at his penis.
If a man delivered that monologue, he’d be called a misogynist and a chauvinist and rightly so. But shouldn’t this be considered bigotry regardless of the gender assigned to the participants? It’s the same message either way, so why is it acceptable to portray anyone, let alone a man, like that? And what bothers me is that it isn’t just one instance of this; this attitude is prevalent throughout the entire show.
Men are either somehow hurting a woman through physical violence or not capable or willing to understand her needs. I realize that these stories of rape and abuse from men are essential to the show, but where are the good men or at least a good man to act in contrast? The boyfriend who helped to get his girlfriend to abuse counseling? The dad who had to partake in that classic old clich? and buy his daughter that first box of tampons?
Hell, how about the men who help to put on the Vagina Monologues every year? Is their contribution to the lives of women now meaningless because of that destructive and terrible minority?
The point I’m trying to make here is not that the show shouldn’t talk about men who hurt women, but that it should, at least somewhat, address the majority who don’t. Certainly, evil is not a gender exclusive trait. And yet, do we see those women who hurt or oppress their daughters or sisters or lovers? As far as I can tell, we do not. But we can’t deny that such things happen. Feminism, as I understand it, was born out of the desire of women to be equal to men, not to put down men.
The show would be no less valid without this hostility and frankly, would almost certainly bring in more ticket sales, raising even more money for the fight against abuse. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone wants?
I’m not asking for the show to compromise its integrity in anyway, but to merely try and consider the feelings of those XY chromosomes sitting out in the audience.