Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Is it legal/proper for Vagina Monologues to "discriminate"?

18. November 2005 • David Boyle
Email this article

     Not to stir up the pot, but the pot is already stirred; folks, apparently including the publishers, are complaining about this year’s UM “Vagina Monologues” show possibly discriminating against white women by trying to get an all women-of-color cast. (As per the Michigan Daily, etc.)
     I have no problem (nor should anyone?) with a mostly women-of-color cast for a change. Artistic latitude, or artistic integrity, allows directors to cast an African-American woman as Rosa Parks, after all, rather than having to cast a 400-pound white man as Parks for the sake of “diversity”! Still, if NO white women are cast at all…
     I am concerned how this could look vis-a-vis the affirmative action struggle, which is supposed to be about integration, not exclusion. (I support affirmative action, of course.) Racial exclusion could even, say, constitute violation of MSA bylaws (and city, county, state, or national laws), not to mention the problem found at http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-siu11.html#, the Chicago Sun-Times article “U.S. accuses SIU of anti-white bias” from a week ago, which shows that the U.S. Justice Department is suing Southern Illinois University for programs that supposedly discriminate against whites. (I’m not saying the Bushies SHOULD do this, but they’re doing it.)
     The directors could always practice “affirmative action” and be willing to cast at least a few white women (maybe in the roles traditionally taken by women of color…), for the sake of keeping the cast diverse, and avoiding charges of illegal racial exclusion, perhaps? (I’m not even suggesting at the moment, that transgender people be included too, though transgendered folks can always make their case if they like…) Would such inclusion and diversity really destroy this year’s production of the Monologues? Just wondering.

  1. Let’s hope the VM organizers aren’t sued by the Bushies!!; that would be unpleasant and a little excessive, I imagine…
       —David Boyle    Nov. 19 '05 - 08:03PM    #
  2. if the producers believe color casting makes a difference, then that difference should be reflected in the title, say “vagina of color monologues” or “vagina monologues with an all -of-color cast.”

    i wonder how the author (eve ensler) sees the issue.
       —peter honeyman    Nov. 21 '05 - 10:48AM    #
  3. “vagina of color”! Wow!
    I’ll be happy to see increased representation of women of color, of course. If that can be done without alienating anybody, all the better…..
       —David Boyle    Nov. 21 '05 - 12:35PM    #
  4. > Let’s hope the VM organizers
    > aren’t sued by the Bushies!!

    Hmmm—don’t like the sound of that phrase—sounds like some kind vagina-centered sectarianism (the ‘bushies’ vs the…uh…you fill in the blank). A bit like the Judean People’s Front vs the People’s Front of Judea.

    But if we’re going to have a VM-related controversy in Ann Arbor, I think it would be more amusing to have a visit from ‘Testacles’:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/sommers200505020808.asp
       —mw    Nov. 21 '05 - 12:38PM    #
  5. Didn’t mean anything by “Bushies”... :O

    National Review article was scary. Still, you can’t deny VM has a quasi-pornographic aura to it, by definition. And that may not be a good thing.
       —David Boyle    Nov. 21 '05 - 03:42PM    #
  6. I see Whitney Dibo’s “The vagina alliance” in the Daily today at http://www.michigandaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2005/11/22/4382be6caff7b
    , sez ”...Are we really so alienated from each other on this campus — dare I say segregated — that even something as inclusive as “The Vagina Monologues” must become exclusive? Are we really so divided as a student body that we must sacrifice Ensler’s vision of female solidarity in the name of race?....I fear this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” has widened the chasm between white women and women of color on this campus, something that we cannot afford here at the University.”

    This echoes some the things I said above.

    The controversy continues…
       —David Boyle    Nov. 22 '05 - 03:44PM    #
  7. While I understand the concern that people may have over the choice to make the VM’s an all women of color cast, I find that people’s objections are very telling. I also read the article from the daily by Dibo and was disturbed by the idea that VM “has nothing to do with race and everything to do with gender.” This statement itself is very revealing of white privilege. If you ask any person of color they would tell you that they can not extract any part of their identity from their race. These women are not simply of the female gender, but are females of color. They cannot be separated and to suggest that they should is rather offensive. Now, to be certain, I do not think that this was the intention of Ms. Dibo. However, the lesson to be learned is that white people still have much to learn about the daily lives of people of color, particurarly a woman of color, and this production of the VM’s is a golden opportunity to do just that. Why must we define “solidarity” so loosely? In this instance, is solidarity only achieved when white women and women of color share the stage? I hope not. I hope we can see solidarity by the white women on this campus supporting and learning from this show. I hope we can be in solidarity by white women understanding that by virtue of their skin color the stage has been far more open to them then women of color, and that to step back for a moment is a part of our acknowledgement of white privilege.

    I am a white woman. I am a white woman who has produced the VMs. I am not so foolish that I do not understand how this is difficult for white women on this campus who wish to express themselves by acting in the VMs. However, I think it is time that we dealt with this difficulty and listened to the women of color in our community. I know that if we truly listen to them the things we will gain from watching their show will be just as valuable, if not more than, as if we were on stage with them. Embrace this chance to learn and grow!
       —Elizabeth Campbell    Nov. 26 '05 - 10:50PM    #
  8. sorry, i meant to say “Why must we define solidarity so narrowly”
       —Elizabeth Campbell    Nov. 27 '05 - 11:34PM    #
  9. Did the white women also step aside and allow women of color to produce and direct the show this year?
       —John Q    Nov. 28 '05 - 11:20AM    #
  10. The show is being directed by a woman of color, assistant directed by a white woman. there are two co-producers, one a woman of color, the other a white woman. the executive board is made up of both women of color and white women.
       —Elizabeth Campbell    Nov. 29 '05 - 12:47AM    #
  11. This is probably a pointless exercise but why not continue it to its logical conclusion – why doesn’t all of this posturing about “white privilege” extend to the people running the show? Surely the same principle should extend to those directing and producing the show, shouldn’t it? Or does this only apply to the faces on stage? Wouldn’t women of color be empowered by the fact that this principle extends not to just the people they see on stage but the people they don’t see but who exercise the power over the show??

    I can’t believe that past discrimination has only extended to the casting of roles on stage. Surely women of color have been excluded from the powers of position in the world of drama and theater. Shouldn’t the white women directing and producing the show “step back” and allow women of color to assume those roles?
       —John Q    Nov. 29 '05 - 02:25AM    #
  12. There is no doubt that the positions of power have been dominated by white women. And I agree that white women should also step aside from those positions, that the same principle stands. However, that was not the choice the director made. She selected a white woman as her assistant producer, and a white woman to be one of the co-producers. I am not sure why that was her choice? But I agree that it is just as important for white women to step aside for those positions as for the stage.
       —Elizabeth Campbell    Nov. 30 '05 - 03:46PM    #