The Penis Monologues

I’m in favor of men speaking out about how patriarchy hurts them; how they’re expected to act as men, how they’re denied validity in their emotions beyond anger—and denied their full humanity as oppressors.

But it isn’t the job of women to facilitate that discussion.

Last night was the opening night of The Vagina Memoirs, an annual performance at my university as a part of the V-Week Campaign. We share our own stories. I like to think of it as social justice through performance. I’d never verbally shared my own writing before. It was awesome. Perhaps I’ll reflect more on the process after our last performance on Saturday.

We had a dialogue afterward the show, and someone in the audience made a comparison to reverse racism and asked why we weren’t including men’s voices in such performances.

My director responded rather tactfully and we plugged an upcoming show at our school called Undressing the Other: Discovering the Naked Truth About Stereotypes that traditionally is starring women of color and their allies, but for the first time this year there is a separate men’s cast. I didn’t say all I wanted to say last night because I wanted to promote Undressing the Other, so I’ll share my thoughts here.

The director of the upcoming men’s show was in the audience, and spoke out. But I was surprised no more men spoke up, especially white men (the men’s show director is a person of color) when the man in the audience compared what we were doing to reverse racism. The Memoirs cast had just made ourselves extremely vulnerable, sharing stories about our body image and femme queer identity and watching porn and losing our virginity and being raped and molested. All things that we shared in hopes that other women wouldn’t feel so isolated and alone, and yet the men in the audience wasn’t inspired enough to step out of his box and explain that no, there is no such thing as reverse sexism. Women can reinforce the status quo, the patriarchy. Women can be prejudiced towards men. But women do not have the physical or institutional power to backup that prejudice. Why didn’t anyone step up and say that?

My fellow castmembers defended their pieces by qualifying, “We don’t hate men!” I certainly don’t! Some of my best friends are men. Seriously. But I also wanted to speak up and say that I disagree: all men benefit from sexism, so yes, all men are part of the problem and are morally obligated to combat sexism, everyday. Yeah, much like I benefit from racism because I’m white and live in a white supremacist culture. I have to combat racism. It’s the right thing to do. Those aren’t two mutually exclusive struggles.

And it’s not our job as women to coordinate a show for men talking about masculinity. I think it’s great a small handful of men at my school want to be allies to women and speak out about how white supremacist patriarchal culture hurts all of us. I wish more men would instead of criticizing women like it’s our job as the minority to make sure the majority’s voices are included.

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10 thoughts on “The Penis Monologues

  1. Very simple question I as a writer would ask myself: What is the point of the production? What were the original creators trying to express?

    Not having seen Monologues yet, from what I’ve heard it’s about women at various points in their lives telling their stories.

    Adding a male point of view is surplus to requirements, and would be like adding an five page aside on minnow growth to an essay about salmon’s migration pattern– I’m sure it’s a worth while topic, but excuse me, what was the original point?

  2. I remember something just like this (while they are two completely different incidents, there is a similar idea behind the complaint in a sense) on the site where I first learnt something about feminism. It was about some e-mails from men saying that the editor of the site was sexist because she focused on sexist adverts towards women, without bringing up any that were sexist towards men. Now I dont consider myself a feminist, because Im a guy, and I dont consider myself a pro-feminist, because I dont know any feminists or pro-feminists personally. Also I have never really contributed in any way to feminism, and I dont think it would be right to label myself with those who actually have. Though I do have a great amount of respect for feminists, and I certainly dont think they should spend exactly half their effort into highlighting mens issues.

    I get the impression lots of people tend to think thats what feminists should do, and if feminists concentrate too much on issues for women, that makes them men haters.

  3. The point of Vagina Memoirs, from my perspective, is to tell our own stories. The Vagina Monologues are a different production–a scripted show by Eve Ensler, and are criticized for tokenizing women of color and queer identified women. I’m sure other univeresities and groups do performances of women’s own stories.

  4. It’s strange though. While men might argue ‘what about men?’ I can’t imagine a white woman speaking up about any other ethnic group and saying ‘what about Caucasian women?’

  5. “Reverse-Racism” (and, by extent, “Reverse-Isms” in general) has always been a phrase that’s made me actually feel kind of, literally, ill. I think because it’s own, earnest existance actually validates its own existance. I mean, that a person is discriminated against because of his ethnicity, regardless of whatever that ethnicity might be, is an act of racism. So what’s reverse-racism, then? That the commonly discriminated-against are now discriminating against the most-oft discriminators?

  6. I certainly dont think they should spend exactly half their effort into highlighting mens issues.

    I get the impression lots of people tend to think thats what feminists should do, and if feminists concentrate too much on issues for women, that makes them men haters.

    Jona, you just summed up my ex’s problem with feminism in two sentences. That’s pretty damned impressive. /applauds

  7. Hi Ariel, kudos to you and the women on your campus for doing this! It is one thing to get on stage and read someone else’s monologues (as in The Vagina Monologues); it is entirely another to get on stage and read your own monologue that you ahve personally written!!!!!!! I think its wonderful!

    There is a good resource on the V-Day website (and I do agree with your comments about it tokenizing and not being inclusive of all women – I’ve both directed and performed in the show and am now doing a thesis on its effects on women’s lives) – a good resource about men’s role in The Vagina Monologues. Reverse sexism? I don’t think so. It takes a lot for a man, who benefits from his privilege and position in patriarchy (both good and bad) to step away from that and say “I don’t need to be included in this. Its’ not my place now, I will only support it.” Women must be given the chance to tell their stories, to fight their own fights someetimes (and other times with support).

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