Is there a stigma associated with being a part of a production of the Vagina Monologues?
February 5, 2010 3:42 PM   Subscribe

Is there a stigma associated with being a part of a production of the Vagina Monologues?

I am 30 years old, straight, NOT a card-carrying feminist. I have a doctorate which I fought to get against culturally restrictive family opinions that did not place any importance on female education. Several cousins have been in unhappy arranged marriages, and I escaped from a stifling native country and family and have finally built a life for myself here in the U.S.

I am now a research scientist at UCLA, and am going to be a part of a production of the Vagina Monologues. When I first tried out, I really wanted to read one of the pieces that pertained to women who suffered abuse at the hands of men in positions of power, as my main reason for doing this is the simple agony of having to watch women I know personally being abused, violated, and taken advantage of - and not being able to speak out for themselves.

It so happened that the piece I ended up with was one of the lighter pieces, quite graphic. I've been telling myself that without the lighter pieces, the darker ones would not be heard. I am not uncomfortable with using words like pussy, vagina, clitoris, etc. in public.

Here's the problem. My long-term boyfriend, and many of my friends (even female) seem to think that there is a stigma associated with it, one that labels you as a feminist, man-hater, what have you. Unfortunately, the piece I was given is one in which a woman discovers her vagina, and for the first time is able to give herself an orgasm. This doesn't really help in trying to make everyone see that there's a greater cause for me to do this. It doesn't help that the production team scheduled the first rehearsal during the Superbowl - which is actually kind of funny.

Perhaps I still have vestiges of my traditional upbringing that contribute to my slight discomfort in doing this. To reiterate, if I had one of the other, more emotionally charged, pieces to read I wouldn't hesitate. But this one just underscores the scoff-y attitude everyone around me seems to have. The worst thing was having my boyfriend ask me what my grandfather would have thought had he been alive - my grandfather was, and always will be, the kindest, wisest, most honorable man that walked this earth... in my humble opinion. And of course, my grandfather wouldn't be happy. Would he stop me if he knew I was doing it for a cause I believed in? Probably not.

But in all honesty, I'd just like to know what the general population perceives a woman who performs such a piece. Thank you!
posted by Everydayville to Society & Culture (50 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

If a woman told me that she had performed in the Vagina Monologues I would be completely and utterly indifferent. Neither offended nor interested.

I don't know if this answers your question.
posted by dfriedman at 3:46 PM on February 5, 2010

If we met on an airplane (etc), I would probably be very interested to know your motivation for participating. I think most people would be at least slightly curious. This opens the door for you to talk about why... and still get the message out there.
posted by hasna at 3:50 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a 25 year old male, and I've had a number of friends, including a former girlfriend, who've participated in the Vagina Monologues. I've never noticed any sort of negative stigma towards women who've participated in the productions, and my own friends who've been involved have run the spectrum of feminism and femininity.

Moreover, the idea of the man-hating feminist seems like a myth more than anything else, and certainly doesn't reflect any modern or widely-practiced form of feminism that I've seen. I wouldn't worry about being labeled that way.
posted by ecab at 3:51 PM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't be offended, either, but I'm not your friends: I don't equate "feminist" with "man-hater". My response would be "hey, good for you!"
posted by wyzewoman at 3:52 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is feminist a bad word? You are participating in what has been considered by many to be a production associated with female rights activism. I would just embrace that fact, if I were you, and be proud of it. It shouldn't be considered a negative and the people who surround you who seem to wrap feminist in a negative connotation need enlightenment.
posted by nickerbocker at 3:53 PM on February 5, 2010 [19 favorites]

I went to the sort of college where basically everyone had been in TVM and it was fine. At some level you have to think about how you feel about it and how you want to reflect/represent that to those closest to you. I personally don't see it as a big deal and it's actually sort of like "hey, neat" [i.e. mild acceptance and "oh hey that's interesting"] but you have to think about the people who are in your peer group as well. I don't see it as a feminist orientation thing at all, just a sort of woman-positive thing and in a good way [as a card carrying feminist myself, btw. I can write you a letter to say that I don't see you at the meetings ;)]
posted by jessamyn at 3:54 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

Feminist does not = man hater. It really means "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes," which is just, you know...fair. It's unfortunate that some people associate it with thinking men are evil. Men are awesome...and so are women!

I personally wouldn't do the Vagina Monologues, but I'm a very private person when it comes to such things. If one of my friends were to do what you'd like to do, they'd be my rock star.
posted by AlisonM at 3:56 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]

I've seen several productions of Vagina Monologues that were almost entirely made up of people I knew. These were an amazing variety of women with an enormous array of reasons for participating in the event.

Anyone who is willing to so quickly pigeon hole an entire group might want to reconsider the variety of people who engage in various activities with them on a regular basis.

Enjoy being part of a great production. (And practice a lot, loudly. As a public speaker, I can assure you that some words might trip you up, especially if the audience is roudy, and it might be.)
posted by bilabial at 4:01 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Low blow, boyfriend. My grandpa would shit himself too, if I told him about my Vagina Monologue escapades, but you know, my grandpa was born over ninety years ago.

I think the general population is more or less over being shocked by TVM by now, and that there are worse things than being perceived as someone who believes that gender doesn't bestow value on an individual, so if someone takes your participation to mean you're a feminist...well? So?
posted by padraigin at 4:02 PM on February 5, 2010 [22 favorites]

if i found out someone i knew had been in the vagina monologues, someone who i didn't already identify as gay/feminist/activist, i'd think of them like the quiet librarian at war protests - that the cause being pushed forward was more important than keeping quiet and comfortable. i think the monologues are a good thing, if only for the money raised and the opening up of the topic.

if you want to do more study about what the anti-vagina monologue crowd thinks from both a feminist and conservative view points - the wiki is a good place to start.

i would use your friends and boyfriends reservations as a conversation starter - use it as a chance to learn more about them and for them to learn more about you. i will admit that my eyebrows raised at him invoking your grandfather and i hope that it was just part of conversation and not a manipulation tactic to get you to not participate.

another thing i wonder - the lighter piece, the one you're doing - do you agree with what your saying? to do you believe it's important to say? why do you think the monologues are important? answering those questions for yourself might help you feel more settled in all this.
posted by nadawi at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

i'd think you were pretty cool for doing it and i think so would pretty much everyone i am proud to call my friend. i have zero patience for people that think "feminist" is a bad word—neither you nor i would be able to vote, get a higher education, get a job, or even date or marry or not marry a person of your own choosing without feminists, both male and female.

honestly, to me the real stigma is that you and the people around you think "feminist" is a bad thing. the moment someone mentions they're not a feminist in disgust in conversation is the moment i immediately write them off as unenlightened and not worth my time. make better friends!
posted by lia at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2010 [11 favorites]

Whether or not there is a stigma depends on the social circle you run in. And since your circle includes people who think "feminist" is a dirty word, there very well may be a stigma within your group of friends.

Personally, I'd think the problem was with the friends, not the play.
posted by sallybrown at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2010 [11 favorites]

Tell your boyfriend that playing the grandfather card is not fair, and that now, you are going to do it in honor of a kind, wise, and honorable man. Tell the other doubters to take a flying leap !
posted by lobstah at 4:07 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe my answer should start with the full disclosure that I consider myself a capital F Feminist, but your motivations sound truly and deeply feminist to me, in the real sense. You overcame definite and unfair obstacles that were placed before you by your culture, simply because of the body you happened to be born in. Being misunderstood as a man hater when you participate in a play by telling a story that is meaningful and resonates with many women is a direct result of a long standing malicious myth. Not only do you get the chance to get the message that is more meaningful across by just being part of it, you get a chance to help your friends see that you don't hate men, but want to help create a world where more women can overcome obstacles as you have.

Short answer: yes, there is still a stigma, but not being cowed by it helps make it go away.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:08 PM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the wonderful words of encouragement and reassurance! I am deeply motivated to do this, knowing full well that while nothing may change as a result, this is at least conclusive evidence of my own emancipation from confining beliefs. I'm not looking for resounding applause or vocal approval... just an understanding that this *means* something to me.

That said, I certainly don't equate feminist with man-hater... but sadly, many do. Also sadly, I've met women who clamor for gender "equality" who hate men.

Again, thank you. And yes, so far, I've only done this in front of a handful of like-minded women, so I'm getting quite anxious. :)
posted by Everydayville at 4:08 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

again, feminist is not a bad word. No stigma in my opinion, except I found the Vagina Monologues pretty corny.
posted by pinky at 4:09 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are some people who would attach a stigma to participating in The Vagina Monologues. Most of those people listen to Rush Limbaugh and use words like "feminazi." Whether their opinion matters to you is entirely your choice.

It's a pretty bad play, but it's raising money for a good cause.
posted by EarBucket at 4:15 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

TVM is very, very often done in conjunction with things like Take Back the Night. At least, that is my experience and the experience of many college-affiliated women I know.

Anyone who had a bad opinion of you for participating in TVM is someone who either really needs to be educated, if you care to take the time and effort, or someone who doesn't matter, or someone who will never understand because they are 90 years old. If anyone's grandpa asks, you participated in an event to raise awareness for violence against women.

The story you have is actually one that is really important. It's not, IMHO, a lighter story, although it may come off as funnier than all the rest of them. It's really about how women's sexuality is hidden and not talked about, which is pretty important. Can you imagine, for example, never knowing that you could pleasure yourself, because all you've ever known is abuse? I think, anyway, that piece is just as important as the ones that you were hoping to perform.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:15 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, there's a stigma. It's called "being awesome enough to speak honestly in public about difficult issues." Seriously, your boyfriend is being foolish and mean and not supportive and he should apologize for that awful "grandpa" crack. He knows you're doing this and is still trying to belittle it? Not cool.

But this [piece] just underscores the scoff-y attitude everyone around me seems to have.

They'll know better after seeing the whole thing; they may not agree with every perspective, but they'll at least get a chance to think about what's being presented. The one I saw a few years back really was amazing; there was no negativity associated with the performers and lots of positive feedback from the larger community. Look, there are more than a few knee-jerkers (male and female) who scoff at the idea of the Vagina Monologues, sneering that it's male-bashing and unimportant, and sneering at the notion of feminism in general. Are you really going to let those people stop you from doing what you know is worthwhile?
posted by mediareport at 4:23 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The story you have is actually one that is really important. It's not, IMHO, a lighter story, although it may come off as funnier than all the rest of them. It's really about how women's sexuality is hidden and not talked about, which is pretty important. Can you imagine, for example, never knowing that you could pleasure yourself, because all you've ever known is abuse? I think, anyway, that piece is just as important as the ones that you were hoping to perform.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:15 PM on February 5

another thing i wonder - the lighter piece, the one you're doing - do you agree with what your saying? to do you believe it's important to say? why do you think the monologues are important? answering those questions for yourself might help you feel more settled in all this.
posted by nadawi at 4:03 PM on February 5


In saying 'Workshop' is lighter than the other pieces, I meant that it doesn't directly talk about being raped with rifles and sodomized with bottles. I do, definitely, see the importance in such a piece, if for no other reason than that sort of personal discovery can be equated with self-awareness on many different levels. That's something that most women in my culture don't have - if they did, chances are they'd be more vocal and more willing to do something about their own situations.
posted by Everydayville at 4:30 PM on February 5, 2010

I think the general population is more or less over being shocked by TVM by now

I wholly concur. The basic notion (a talking vagina) was the premise of a Family Guy joke, which is edgy in a mainstream sort of way. I think there is probably a bit of a stigma for some who hear about it, but 1) it's a lot less than it it was 10 years ago (it was first written in 1996!) and 2) MeFites aren't the folks who would be offended.

Also, I assume there are things you say and do that would offend or startle your grandfather every day. I'm not saying you're not a wonderful person, I mean your grandfather is not the one to impress with your every action. I wouldn't tell my grandfather I was entertained in a lounge run by drag queens, but it's not something I am ashamed of.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:35 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing EarBucket. If you're doing this as an actress, yes, there's a stigma, since as theater it's a one-dimensional vehicle meant for preaching to the converted. It's a bad play, frequently and badly performed by college kids all over the country, to the point that it has become a cliché for knee-jerk feminism. (Yes, I consider myself a feminist.)

If you're doing it as a public statement of personal empowerment...well, it's not the kind of public appearance I'd want to make...but ok. Better in a theater than on a city bus.
posted by philokalia at 4:40 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Nthing EarBucket. If you're doing this as an actress, yes, there's a stigma, since as theater it's a one-dimensional vehicle meant for preaching to the converted. It's a bad play, frequently and badly performed by college kids all over the country, to the point that it has become a cliché for knee-jerk feminism. (Yes, I consider myself a feminist.)

If you're doing it as a public statement of personal empowerment...well, it's not the kind of public appearance I'd want to make...but ok. Better in a theater than on a city bus.
posted by philokalia at 4:40 PM on February 5

Not an actress, and not trying to shout out my own personal empowerment from the rooftops, either. I even told everyone that knows I'm doing it they didn't need to watch a performance if they didn't want to. And yes, I am appalled at some of the performances I've seen on YouTube, even as a rank novice to theatrical performances.

It's just... something I never would have been able to do if I hadn't removed myself from the narrow-mindedness that surrounded me. Ironically enough, in doing this, I've encountered more narrow-mindedness, if not as tyrannical, definitely frustrating.
posted by Everydayville at 4:50 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't speak to whether there is a sitgma generally, but I know that I think anybody who takes part in such a production is really neat. My law school staged it and I remember speaking to one of the participants weeks later in the cafeteria just to tell her that I thought she did a great job. (I'm a man, if that matters.)

Maybe some people will think you are a feminist man basher, but why would you be particularly concerned with impressing these people?
posted by massysett at 4:58 PM on February 5, 2010

HECK YEAH! I AM a card carrying feminist. I love women. Seems like you do too, since you care deeply about the women in your life (including YOU) having a voice and about women having the opportunities and support they deserve.

The Vagina Monologues are pretty graphic. But you know what? It's about us. Our bodies. Our experiences - positive AND devastating. And it's stories about taking ownership of these things, even though sometimes they're uncomfortable.

The Vagina Monologues are NOT ABOUT MEN. It's not man-hating or male-bashing. These are stories about WOMEN. And yeah, there is STILL A STIGMA in 2010 with a woman going on stage and saying out loud that she has a vagina, and it has had experiences that have shaped her as a person. Your piece is just as important as the dark stuff. It's not just in there to let the audience have a rest in between the "real" stories. You get to tell story that will be heard, processed, and talked about. Your piece will resonate with a lot of audience members "haha, oh my god, that was me!" or awaken in somebody the idea that's it's not shameful to discover what our bodies can do. That will be you up there. That's awesome.

I am so excited for you that you are taking part. It's okay to be squeamish about the things you have to say -- you probably haven't said anything like that out loud at a party, right? But you might (and you might not, that's okay) find that coming together as a community of women is really exciting. When I was in TVM the cast got really close during our rehearsals and I got to hear THEIR stories.

So yes. Some people - including your boyfriend, that sucks I'm sorry - won't understand why you're participating. But it seems to me that you want to give it a shot. Go for it.
posted by missmary6 at 5:12 PM on February 5, 2010 [5 favorites]

Well, no one will judge you merely on your participation in the production, because it's almost never the only thing they'd know about you. You're an immigrant, and even strangers may pick up on this if you have an accent. If I knew someone acting in The Vagina Monologues who was say South Asian, I would figure there were some interesting cultural issues she'd had to consider in the process, and that this was probably a thoughtful, interesting person. Someone from a generically American cultural background may not have seriously examined their views on feminism, even if they're acting in a feminist play. But if you're from a conservative culture it's pretty hard to avoid.

So I could see the concern that people will think you chose to do a silly scene that's a little over-the-top, but even if they don't know how the casting worked, anyone who knows your background should give you the benefit of the doubt here.
posted by serathen at 5:29 PM on February 5, 2010

Best answer: I have performed in the Vagina Monologues (I got the being sodomized by a rifle piece, which was super difficult for me. I'd have been more comfortable with the Workshop piece that you got). I dealt with some backlash and stigma, but I think the experience was a Good Thing and I definitely think it could be for you as well.

First, you should talk with your castmates--I wouldn't be surprised if there's another performer who's a little uncomfortable with saying 'those words' and would be willing to practice with you and work on it.

Second, I would definitely suggest a little chat with your boyfriend to make sure this isn't the only important view that he holds that you might disagree with (how does he feel about women working after marriage? would he support those cousins of yours in getting out of their arranged marriages? basically, do your values in the realm of feminism--for lack of a better word--mesh, or not?).

With your friends, well, you might want to agree to disagree on this one (some of my friends didn't approve of me performing TVM; my parents certainly didn't and thank god my grandfather didn't know because he would have cut me off). The point is, your friends may not hold all the same opinions you do (and that's ok) but your boyfriend had better share some key ideals with you or your relationship is going to get rocky.

As for my experience, well, I wore our cast shirt (I [heart] vaginas) to class the week before the performance and one of my male professors crossed the line into sexual harassment about it. On the other hand, I took that information to my male advisor who was senior in the department and the professor in question was not hired full-time as a result of that (and other reasons). So, stigma? Yes, but I think it's one worth confronting and that would be my advice to you: be aware that not everyone holds the view that TVM should be mentioned, let alone performed, and decide whether you want to change that view in yourself and your family and friends.
posted by librarylis at 5:34 PM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]

I saw TVM maybe two years ago here on campus. I don't remember anything about it seeming anti-male in any way. In fact, I found the (simulated) candidness of strong women to be wildly attractive.

If your friends, or anyone, can't separate your personality from a performance that doesn't even have anything suggesting what they're worried about, then fuck them.
posted by cmoj at 5:48 PM on February 5, 2010

The stigma I attach to TVM is "douchey and played out," but I'm totally indifferent to any one person's desire to act in it. FWIW, I guess I'm a "small-f" feminist male.
posted by Rykey at 6:18 PM on February 5, 2010

In reality, the life you have is a testament to what has been done by all those card-carrying feminists. The fact that this country allows for you making your own dating and marriage decisions, allows for you being a highly-educated scientist... feminism did that.

Some people will still see a stigma associated with this, the same way that some people still publicly comment that the country would be better if women didn't vote, the way some people still think that birth control is evil, the way even some people in the United States still practice genital mutilation on their daughters.

The people who will disrespect you for performing in this, as a rule, also aren't going to fully respect everything else that you've accomplished with your life. You should absolutely explain to them why you're doing this, but furthermore you really need to ask this long-term boyfriend what it is about this and feminism in general that he objects to. It may be that he just needs some education, but it's better to find out late than never that your significant other doesn't respect you, if that's the case.

And I don't say this as any kind of a man-hater, but rather as a woman who had a relationship fall apart after just wanting to *attend* one of these shows, after a discussion where it turned out that my erstwhile boyfriend of several years expected me to put all of my aspirations secondary to his own as soon as we were married. And he was a registered Democrat. This is, sadly, the world we still live in, even those of us who've never lived outside the US. While these performances can be poorly staged and acted, while sometimes the people putting them on can be seriously obnoxious, the truth is that there's still a lot in the world to speak out about, and if you stay silent just to keep the approval of people who don't respect women anyway, the world doesn't get any better.
posted by larkspur at 6:24 PM on February 5, 2010 [9 favorites]

I think people may be deluding themselves a little in this thread. It seems pretty clear to me that TVM has a femimist stigma about it. This is because it's a feminist play. It's about reclaiming women's bodies, it's about reclaiming the words use to describe them, it's about women owning their own sexuality - all these things make it very feminist.

That's fine, of course - it's absolutely what it should be, and a feminist stigma isn't a bad thing, but the stigma still exists. If I knew nothing about two people except that one was in a performance of TVM then I think it would be reasonable to assume, based on that information, that the performer was the more feminist of the two. To me, performing in TVM does label you as someone who cares about feminist issues, in the same way that someone performing in the church nativity play is probably religious.

When your friends react to it, perhaps you could use it as a chance to share your story and educate your friends. Feminism doesn't mean man-hating, and your case is a perfect example of why people need to understand that.
posted by twirlypen at 6:25 PM on February 5, 2010

Your boyfriend is being an insecure twit. I'm not saying he's a terrible person, I'm just saying that he's acting like an insecure twit. He's embarrassed because the word "vagina" embarrasses him. But he's dating an adult woman and really, he should get over it.

I'm sure he's doing and saying a lot of things that his grandfather would not like either; what a ridiculous cheap shot that he has no right to make. (IMO the answer is hey, boyfriend, I'm 30 and living in the now, not 70 and living in the then.)

You should TOTALLY talk to the other women about this. In fact, if I were the director, I'd take you all out for a beer and tell you all to talk out everything about the subject matter. Perhaps you should suggest that.
posted by desuetude at 6:31 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm knocked out by your commitment to perform in this awesome work, but I must hasten to assure you that you are, in fact, a feminist. memail me your address and I'll send you a card ;0)
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:35 PM on February 5, 2010

As a guy, I would attach the tag feminist to someone who performed in TVM and wasn't just doing it from an acting perspective (without knowing your inspiration). I don't see anything wrong with it, either. As other's have mentioned, some might. It seems like your boyfriend may not be comfortable with you being in it, or perhaps the expectation that he attend the performance. Thus, he played the Granddad card. Speak with your boyfriend. Do you expect / want him to attend? Would you be hurt if he didn't? He might be more supportive if he knew he had an out card. Likewise, this could be true for any of your friends who appear reticent because they feel that maybe they're expected to attend as well. Some people may not want or may feel uncomfortable attending a show like TVM.
posted by Atreides at 6:38 PM on February 5, 2010

Well, asking MeFi isn't going to give you a representative slice of 'the general population'.
posted by mattholomew at 6:54 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, the piece I was given is one in which a woman discovers her vagina, and for the first time is able to give herself an orgasm.

I've not yet heard or read all of TVM, and am glad that this most universal of female experiences is given voice in the piece. Is it "scoffy" to your friends because it doesn't describe a woman being hurt or manipulated because of her vagina? This seems one of the bigger points to you, and I wonder if you could approach it differently: your part isn't "lighter" so much as it's more central. A woman's pleasure in herself is precisely what the "harder" pieces are about denying, right? So the scoff you perceive and anticipate is about female pleasure.

[I've never seen TVM and am near your university. I'd love to see the production. Would you mefimail me about dates? Google isn't helping for 2010 productions. Here's to you!]
posted by goofyfoot at 6:58 PM on February 5, 2010

I think it's a great thing. And my grandfather might not understand the need to do it, or be comfortable watching it, but he supports feminism regardless.

So yeah, some grandpa's are cool with feminism.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:48 PM on February 5, 2010

Surely there are things your boyfriend engages in that his grandparents wouldn't approve of. This is true of all grandkids. "What would your grandfather think of this?"--what a manipulative and unkind thing for your boyfriend to say!

Some people are going to be offended by this production or the idea of feminism in general--but doesn't your participating in TVM despite those people accomplish exactly what you want? You want to stand up and speak in honor of women who endure "not being able to speak out for themselves." The reason those oppressed women aren't able to speak out for themselves is because they live in situations controlled by the same types of people who are offended by TVM and feminism. You're an independent, adult woman who gets to make her own choices, even if they offend people.

Most of the people I know wouldn't be offended by your participation. My older, more conservative relatives might not really "get" it. They might not understand why it matters so much to you. But I can't think of anyone in my social or family circles who would be offended by your participation or would consider to mar your status as a respectable woman.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:51 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the kicker here is the grandfather comment. It's disrespectful to the memory of a good man, and it seems controlling-- "here, let me evoke the specter of your restrictive family life in a repressive culture for you so you don't do things I find uncomfortable."

It's certainly not unheard of in a town like Los Angeles, where there are a lot of both aspiring actors and folks of a liberal or progressive bent, for women to have performed roles in TVM. I don't even think I can formulate an opinion one way or the other on your politics or your leanings, other than that you probably support a generalized idea of female empowerment. Your peer group sounds like they're a little more on the conservative/ traditional side; hopefully, your boyfriend can gracefully grasp that he was out of bounds to involve your grandfather and be a little more receptive to your choices.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:30 PM on February 5, 2010

I would simply think that someone involved in TVM had a bit of awesomeness to them.
However, my friends and I all call ourselves feminists. Openly. Publicly. Frequently. And not in isolation.
posted by acoutu at 8:51 PM on February 5, 2010

Your boyfriend's comment about your grandfather was a cheap shot. Your grandfather, as sweet and wise as he might have been, was born in a different era with different mores. Your grandfather would probably disapprove of you even having a boyfriend.

It might be important to figure out exactly why your boyfriend objects, for the sake of your relationship. I don't know how often he pulls out the "what would your grandfather think", but it seems to be a pretty big gun to pull out for what seems to be such a trivial issue.
posted by sid at 10:14 PM on February 5, 2010

If you don't mind people knowing that you are a woman unashamed of her womanhood, and empowered and proud of her body enough to put it on stage to encourage others to be frank and free and to feel good about themselves, you've already answered your question. You're a feminist. It's not a sign that floats over your head wherever you go. It's something to be embraced, imo, just like the physical parts of you.

Manhaters, per se, don't exist. Unhappy people have all manner of targets for their unhapiness. Something as big as half the people in the world is bound to be a target for some of them.

I was in TVM twice, and it was MEGA FUN. Yeah, it's kind of corny. Fun things often are. It's still bloody necessary. And especially it's necessary to participate from different points of view, backgrounds and motives. Having a woman from a non-western country would be a boon to a crew in terms of the diversity of female experience. I'm sure you'll have a terrific time if you let go of this worry that you'll be branded a bulldagger manhater. Has your boyfriend even SEEN it before?

I'm at USC now and I'd come see you and bring you flowers Fo. Sho.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:25 PM on February 5, 2010

I dragged my boyfriend to a performance of the vagina monologues one year and it really distressed him. His problem was very obviously plain discomfort with the graphic-ness of it (both violent and sexual - I didn't realize that he had no idea what to expect going in). So there's that, as a fair reason for friends to be surprised or shocked at your performance, especially if they go see it because you're in it, not realizing what kind of show it is; but I think you of all people have a good reason to want to be part of it!
posted by Lady Li at 12:19 AM on February 6, 2010

What happened regards the under age rape scene in the VM (12 year old girl seduced into sex by older woman?) Did that bit get removed in performance versions?
posted by A189Nut at 3:11 AM on February 6, 2010

A189Nut: Her age was changed to 16 and no one's allowed to do the 12-year-old version now.

I performed in the Vagina Monologues last year. It was my first leading theatre role, and I got the role of the multiple-orgasm dominatrix. Fun! I was more worried about being so overtly sexual (I was already pretty much a card-carrying feminist ;D) but the crew I was in was awesome, such a fantastic bunch of women.

The Workshop piece - I remember that one, it's adorable! That, and my piece, show that the vagina can be something totally silly and funny; there's no need to make the whole issue so serious and dour. There are enough mood changes to keep the audience up and responsive.

We were sold out both nights - our second night we were sold out before we started! We had all sorts of people there, including my boyfriend's mother and her partner, as well as my supervisor for a uni research project. Everyone LOVED it - people came in with all sorts of ideas about the vagina, not all positive, but there were people there who told me that night that they had all sorts of weird expectations and were pleasantly surprised.

It was the role that spurred me on to keep performing, and if there's a chance to do it again I'd jump on it. So far the only person who has been a bit iffy was my mother, but she'd be a bit iffy anyway! I was the only Asian in the cast, but playing the domme didn't seem to affect me too badly. There's also a strong enough understanding of feminism in Brisbane that anyone who claims we were manhaters would be corrected very quickly.

The funny thing is though, I get recognised very often at events relating to queer culture or sexuality - I had a pornstar at Sexpo spot me and gush (not literally!) about how her mother-in-law loved the show; I befriended an actual dominatrix who thought I did OK but "could use more training"; and everytime I go to a lesbian event someone will exclaim "HEY You're from the Vagina Monologues!" even if I look daggy or cut my hair (apparently my voice gives me away). The response has usually been positive.

A large part of the reputation you may get depends on your location, but if anyone will call you man-hating it would likely be towards the group as a whole, rather than you personally. For me it's brought tons of benefits, and the experience was absolutely worth it.

Have fun! That Workshop piece is one of the more challenging pieces anyway because it's so long and you usually have to do the whole thing in a Brit accent. But your group should be pretty supportive; mine was. After a while you'll feel that the Workshop piece is yours and that no one else can do it as well as you, or that no one else can be the Domme, or the Kosovo victim, or the Coochie Snorcher, etc. Oh, and enjoy my dominatrixing. If I can do it, so can you!
posted by divabat at 3:53 AM on February 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

WTF? Feminist is *not* a dirty word, and if being in the Vagina Monolgues makes people label you a feminist, so what?

You yourself seem to have a negative reaction to the word, which I would spend a little time examining, if I were in your shoes. "NOT a card-carrying feminist." Why is this comment so strongly worded?

My impression of your post is that you are participating in this event to honor women in your life who have suffered at the hands of men, either physically or emotionally. Guess what? Wanting women to have the same rights and respect men have makes you a feminist. That's all that feminism is — equality. It's not anything any more revolutionary than that.
posted by Brittanie at 10:14 AM on February 6, 2010

I automatically assume that women are one variety of feminist or another. I would be much more weirded out to find out that a female friend considered herself "not-a-feminist" then I would to discover a friend was performing in TVM.

I think your friends are weird to make such statements about the play or about you performing it.

I'd find new friends. I don't really mean to sound harsh or snarky. Your friends' perspectives are just really alien to me.

I understand being hesitant to perform the play because of the language or because of its raw emotional content. Being in TVM takes a lot of courage. If I was your friend, I would take this opportunity to celebrate your courage.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2010

I saw TVM a few years ago in college, and I found it really powerful and educational. I would be proud to be a part of it.
posted by radioamy at 8:18 PM on February 6, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your responses, and support. To those of you in Los Angeles and would like to see the production, I will post performance dates here :)

Divabrat: I already saw your performance, when I did a search on MeFi for similar threads! Well done. This piece is pretty fun, yes, and I'm doing it in a Brit accent (my own accent is mostly Canadian).
posted by Everydayville at 12:40 PM on February 7, 2010

I'm a divaBAT not a BRAT ;)
posted by divabat at 7:04 PM on February 7, 2010

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