Editor’s Note:  Dr. Baylor originally posted this online on a social media site.  After reading it, I felt it needed a larger audience and asked permission to use post it.  We thank Dr. Baylor for allowing us to publish this and offer a unique perspective on the show. 

by Dustin Baylor, M.D.

I went to Friday night’s presentation by myself and sat inconspicuously in the back corner, mostly so I didn’t have to pretend to be gay or have a bunch of people ask if the seat next to me was taken. After reading some online reviews about the show (which varies substantially in content depending on the venue) and researching the original author, I was afraid this show would be a seething cauldron of anti-male hostility. There’s only one way to find out, right? You see, I am a self-proclaimed cynic and skeptic – but a well-informed one who is open to changing my viewpoints if adequately persuaded. That occurred Friday night.


The Vagina Monologues

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I think guys are inherently suspicious of this show for multiple reasons. Nice guys fear being ostracized based solely on their gender. Controlling or macho guys fear an independently strong woman. And the truly bad guys fear female empowerment and awareness which leads to them being held accountable for the unspeakable acts they commit. Even organized religion is typically dubious of the monologues due to a conservative sort of prudishness when it comes to sexual behavior – an unavoidable topic given the anatomy in the title! Couple that with a sizable female populace being uncomfortable with the subject matter and it’s easy to see why the show gets a predictable amount of scorn everywhere it goes.

First of all, one thing that is above condemnation of any sort, is the benefit this show has in donating proceeds to the One Billion Rising campaign, and even more importantly, to local groups that protect women from domestic violence. Here in town, it was the YWCA – and it was fitting that their representative started the show giving statistics on just how many counseling sessions, crisis line phone calls, and other methods of advocacy occur right here in our county. You see, that was another point of contention I originally had with the show. Quoting global stats on rape and violence usually have inflated numbers when applied to first-world countries. As sad as it is, Africa is a seriously backwards continent when it comes to basic human rights, and they have atrocious numbers that are high enough to skew even international tallies. That said, having a local person talk about local numbers of women helped and protected, was enlightening. As a physician, I see a wide range of people and conditions and get rare confidential insight from patients. But there’s still a silent undercurrent of oppressed individuals that never even make it to the surface. It would be naïve to think they don’t exist, even in the most affluent of communities.
On to the show itself: for the most part, these are actresses reading previous recorded interviews or monologues. It is difficult to ferret out the acting from the personal accounts each woman in the show has. While a few bravely specified at the end of the show, there was a blurred boundary where it was difficult to tell script from real life. Perhaps this is intentional. I certainly don’t think having a personal traumatic experience is a prerequisite for performing in the show. Regardless, the acting was superior – largely due to the obvious passion these women had for the subject and purpose of the presentation.
Topics included: pubic hair, self-image issues, menstrual cycles, synonyms for the anatomy, rape, sexual exploration, orgasm, genital mutilation, pregnancy, gender identification, medical exams, and the frequently misunderstood or misrepresented aspects to each of those. Notice that there wasn’t a “hating men” segment. Reading the program before the show, I was leery of the “My Angry Vagina” sequence coming up. In reality, that skit was actually pretty funny and hardly what I would have guessed. Even when the subject including rape, whether domestic or at the hands of barbaric war criminals – it was about the woman. It was about her experiences, and more applicably, the transformation that occurs after such an encounter. I was waiting for the portrayal of the criminals in the context of an overarching hedonistic evil male gender stereotype. That never happened. And it would have been pretty easy to include.
I suppose the cast of the show might be surprised by my preoccupation with how men are portrayed, but I think this is an unaddressed concern that would definitely lead to more widespread appeal to the show. There are certainly a lot of elements that men would benefit from hearing – many of which I learned about in medical school, or sociology class, or by being married, or having kids, or knowing women who have gone through some of these events. The same goal of demystifying and removing stigmas for women – can and should apply to men as well.
In short, this is a must-see show for women – especially those who feel uncomfortable with all things vaginally related. The surprising part (to me) is that I would make the same argument for men! Yes, the conversation is geared toward a female audience, but you can learn a lot just by listening in when others are talking. The local participants in Enid’s show should be praised for their willingness to engage these topics head-on. Some who experienced abuse and were willing to share their story. Some who participated in monologues that would embarrass most folks. All of whom acted in a play known for controversy deep in the heart of the Bible belt.
After the show, the actresses were in the lobby – sort of like a wedding reception line. I didn’t go through that, instead opting to bolt out the door as though it were an escape hatch. Maybe an hour and a half of gender apprehension built up, who knows? I hope this review serves as an adequate show of appreciation to those individuals however, and that more women (and men) are willing to better understand the subject in the future.