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February 13, 2015


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Scholars Speak: The Vagina Monologues and Trans* Experience

February 13, 2015

Photo: Rachael Smith performs in a Mount Holyoke College production of The Vagina Monologues.

The Vagina Monologues
was the first show I ever performed as a college student at Mount Holyoke College. As a nervous, yet prepared, first-year, I was absolutely thrilled by the chance to be onstage. I would have never guessed that two years from then, I would be turning down a callback for the very same show due to my growing level of discomfort with TVM.

Since the announcement from Project: Theatre, a student group that produces the show annually,  that they would discontinue this year’s performance of TVM, because the play excludes the experience of transgender women, our campus (not to mention the national media) has become abuzz with conversation and debate. Mount Holyoke students are diverse in their opinions, and therefore I can only speak to my own personal experiences with TVM.

Do I believe that TVM was a groundbreaking piece of theatre that sparked dialogues and helped build community? Absolutely. The main problem that I see with TVM is that the show cannot be altered in any form; this means that if a community wants to create and add its own monologues based on its members’ experiences, it cannot.

While Eve Ensler, who wrote the play, has recently stated that she understands the importance of, “honoring the right of everyone to talk about their reality,” The Vagina Monologues is an unalterable piece of work that only emphasizes a select few voices. It goes without saying that some Mount Holyoke stories, including my own, do not fit within the confines of TVM.

What’s not being discussed nearly as much in the media is the decision of Project: Theatre to begin a new annual tradition: a play composed entirely of Mount Holyoke student-written and performed monologues aptly named The Student Body. All monologues are submitted anonymously and will be performed on Valentine’s Day weekend (the traditional time of year when colleges around the country put on The Vagina Monologues). As we reflect and work in our own community, a shift is occurring from the words of progressive thinkers who came before us into our own lived experiences and ideas.

In addition to this new play, a group of students passionate about The Vagina Monologues have decided to stage their own production of the show, which they view as a complementary performance to The Student Body.

All in all, the decision of two groups to perform distinctly different plays on good terms has reminded me of why I love Mount Holyoke: its students are passionate but willing to work in tandem, despite different viewpoints and beliefs. I personally am excited to see both shows.

This post was written by Point Scholar Rachael Smith

Maine native Rachael Smith hopes to eventually become a civil rights attorney. She has realized that anti-bullying in schools is something that she feels passionate about and hopes to help promote tolerance and acceptance by implementing similar anti-bullying workshops in schools all around the U.S.

Learn more about Rachael here.

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