V-Day retires “The Vagina Monologues,” leaving organizers without a performance piece for February

Black and white image of grapefruits forming neat rows. Text on top reads “An Adieu to The Vagina Monologues” in script font
Black and white image of grapefruits forming neat rows. Text on top reads “An Adieu to The Vagina Monologues” in script font

Earlier this month, I was surprised to read The Vagina Monologues is retiring from the V-Day campaign. The campaign website reads:

This is a moment of reckoning and it is clear to us that the voices of Black women artists need to take center stage in a sustained and focused way.

*If you would like to purchase rights to host a production of The Vagina Monologues, please visit eveensler.org/plays/the-vagina-monologues/

These reasons for retirement are entirely valid.

The VOICES Campaign, “a new piece curated by the magnificent poet and organizer Aja Monet” aims to spotlight Black women in poetry, monologues, and songwriting. The new performance piece, however, will not be ready until Fall 2021, leaving organizers, who have put on The Vagina Monologues year-after-year raising awareness about intimate partner violence, creating humor around vaginal mishaps and miracles, and raising much-needed funds for anti-violence organizations across the world, without a comparable replacement.

The suggested V-Day events for 2020 include a youth art contest, a film screening, creating “Rising Gardens,” and writing monologues of one’s own to perform.

My heart sunk when I read this news.

I attempted to apply for stage licensing for The Vagina Monologues

but was denied because livestreamed performances are not allowed. I wrote back to Dramatists Play Service saying

“Are you able to explain why streaming rights are not available? It seems odd to not have streaming rights available for all plays during a global pandemic? Do you know if/when they will be made available before February 2021 so that I may re-apply. You probably know that no theaters are hosting live performances anywhere at this time.”

The response I received was “The agents will not allow online streaming, per the author’s wishes.”

I wrote to V-Day with questions.

“As you all must know, no theaters are hosting live performances anywhere at this time. So, I was wondering if not having licensing rights available for livestreamed performances was a mistake or if there is another way to secure rights to produce The Vagina Monologues virtually, or if not allowing streaming licenses is a way to ensure that organizations do not perform The Vagina Monologues this year during February.”

And received

“Productions of The Vagina Monologues cannot be produced online/streamed due to copyright restrictions.”

along with instructions on how to organize a “Raise the Vibration” event — essentially local women writing their own monologues and producing it.

I wrote again.

I understand that “Productions of The Vagina Monologues cannot be produced online/streamed due to copyright restrictions,” but my question is about why that is. The Dramatists Play Service said it was because of V’s (formerly Eve Ensler’s) wishes, so I’m trying to understand the reasoning behind this decision. Especially during this time of sheltering in place and the rise of intimate partner violence as a result, I feel like productions of The Vagina Monologues are even more imperative… I don’t anticipate having the same level of success… in such a short amount of time the way that producing The Vagina Monologues would 1. draw an audience (and funding for our local beneficiary) and 2. allow the audience to feel that the show was worth attending.

When I didn’t receive a response, I wrote again.

…It doesn’t feel right to leave organizers without a replacement for the Vagina Monologues for the month of February, and with such short notice. It doesn’t feel right to deny people the right to produce The Vagina Monologues while they wait for The Voices Project to be ready months from now. It doesn’t feel right to deny people without access to resources the right to carry on their yearly tradition especially when the pandemic has created a surge in intimate partner violence. Screening a movie or planting a garden (which is not a possibility living in a mountain town in Wyoming) are not comparable replacements for putting on a show that has been going on for decades and draws consistent crowds and funding for anti-violence organizations…

Then I received a response asking if I’d be willing to talk on the phone.

I accepted. I spoke with Tony, a representative of V-Day, and Susan the Executive Director.

The reason Susan gave for the performance to not be livestreamed was because it could be triggering to participants and community members and during this time of COVID where people “are so isolated, it’s a concern.”

To me this feels infantilzing, and must not be the actual real reason. I explained in return that I have participated in survivor advocacy trainings and events in which Survivor Advocates were made available to participants if something was brought up for them that they needed to talk out or receive support for.

Their solution was to provide a grant to the anti-violence beneficiary in my community that receives the proceeds from The Vagina Monologues.

I of course told them, yes, send them money. They deserve all the money they can get.

The entire thing sucks.

And I will be making an attempt to put together performances written and performed by individuals from my community instead.

I stand by my previous statement. If The VOICES campaign was not ready to take the place of The Vagina Monologues immediately in February, this should not have been the decision that was made. It doesn’t feel right to leave organizers without a performance piece to replace The Vagina Monologues with for the month of February, and with such short notice. It doesn’t feel right to deny people without access to resources like that of individuals who live in big cultural epicenters the right to produce The Vagina Monologues while they wait for The VOICES Campaign to be ready. As a rural woman, I feel very unconsidered, disappointed, and abandoned.

It sucks. But I will nonetheless attempt to create a production representing my community.

If you would like to write for, perform for, or be a writing coach for this production, please contact me directly via Facebook or Instagram. Writers can be anonymous or credited and create pieces surrounding themes of sexuality, masculinity/femininity, the body, intimate partner violence, and/or surviving intimate partner violence. Monologues/performance pieces can be comedic or dramatic, they can be songs, interpretive dance, poetry, anything. Writers do not have to perform. Performers don’t have to write.

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If you liked this article and want to read more articles from me, check out:

ACTUALLY, a WOMAN wrote the “I Am a Liberal” Essay — NOT Ron Howard

Sex Ed. 101: How to Ask for Consent

Ideasthesia: Why We Shouldn’t Refer to Women as “Girls”

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Author. Playwright. Poet. Activist.

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