Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vagina Monologues: Slightly at Ease

Background post: The Vagina Monlogues: The Monologue At Last So, I was in fact cast for the only other "Asian" line in the Monologues earlier this week. Fortunately, when I decided to pull the Director aside and express my misgivings, she told me she had cut the racialized part of the line last year and would do it again this year. That means that I won't be "Asia-fied" as much as I could've been onstage. However, as electroman points out, it doesn't actually resolve my issues about why I was cast and whether or not I was brought onboard more because of my race than any actual merit. Also, why did she cast me in that line if the line was not going to be racialized? Who knows. Ultimately, I want to be in this show, and while I'm not happy I was ever put in this position, at least I don't have to actually talk about myself being a "good Vietnamese woman" anymore. It sucks being a person of colour. There's so much doubt inherent in it -- not doubt in oneself but doubt in the motivations of all those around you.


Blogger silverfish said...

I can imagine. I've had sort of similar experiences but not race related. I have been befriended by a lot of people over the years and not known if they're genuine or just want help with their English. As a Canadian you might've had that too. It makes me wonder whether I would've had so many people wanting to know me if I'd been Finnish.

1/20/2006 03:11:00 AM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

Gotta take the bad with the good i guess.At least you let them know how you instead of keeping it to yourself.By the way, the Vagina Monologues has come here as well.They are in th middle of casting.I will finally get a chance to check it out.Might even work in props

1/20/2006 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger brownfemipower said...

i can really empathize with you--i am currently wondering if people like my creative writing because it's "different" (that is, written from a radical WoC perspective) or if it is really good. i just never feel like I can lower my gaurd and trust what is being said...

1/20/2006 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger brownfemipower said...

Hey, my old school, University of Michigan is going through a "controversy" as the directors of this years VM's insisted that there be an all woman of color cast. THe lovely "diverse" student body at U of M are screaming "reverse racism" and other such hostilities. they have, apparently, never in their whole lives been so insulted that somebody would get "special privileges" because of their "extra melonin content".
the link to this story is

ps i know lauren whitehead, and she is one of the most supportive white feminist allies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing-----anyway, I thought of you (Jenn) when I saw this...

This V-Day, the University will host a performance of "The Vagina Monologues" that excludes white women from performing. In an effort to emphasize violence against females of color, the directors decided only women of color would be accepted for this year's production. The campus found out about this change through an e-mail sent to multiple lists by director Lauren Whitehead. Our colleagues opined (A license to direct, 11/10/2005) in defense of this casting policy by citing the "creative freedom" of the director. We agree that the directors of the production possesses creative latitude with their casting policy; however, discriminating against potential performers solely on skin color is the very definition of racism and cannot be justified under any pretense.

The purpose of V-Day is to educate Americans about the violence perpetrated against women in our society. This ugly reality affects all women, white or otherwise. "The Vagina Monologues," written by Eve Ensler, provides a forum through which women can educate the public about a problem that plagues their community. Performances of Ensler's play are dramatic, disturbing to some, but educational for all.

Whitehead's e-mail says: "I beg of you (minority women), help uphold the mission of this movement: to give women - all women - a voice." Why then are white women excluded? For the directors to achieve their goal of giving all women a voice they must include white women in the cast. We would be equally outraged if she informed minority women they need not apply and simultaneously claim a diverse cast. We wonder if our colleagues would have been equally tolerant if the directors had explicitly excluded minority women from joining the cast.

Whitehead claims in her e-mail, "Violence against women - happens to women of color at a disproportionately higher rate than it does to our white counterparts." While she is entitled to her own opinion, Whitehead is not entitled to her own facts. According to a 1998 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, black women are barely more than 1 percent more likely to experience rape during their lifetimes than white women. Additionally, the same report found white women are 3 percent more likely to experience rape that Hispanic women in their lifetimes. This is hardly disproportionate.

Our colleagues opine creative license is an acceptable shield for racism. While creative license is necessary, it is not an excuse for blatant discrimination even if the intentions are noble. Promoting the directors' abuse of their creative license sets a dangerous precedent to future artistic endeavors because it excludes a whole demographic based on skin color. Ensler intended for the characters in her play to reflect the diverse faces of women who experience violence and increase the importance of V-Day. This interpretation unnecessarily detracts from the message of Ensler's play.

We feel the directors could achieve their goal of highlighting violence against minority women by other less insensitive means. We encourage them to recast the roles to include ALL women adversely affected by violence, not just those who are "melanin- endowed." Students should demand that this production adhere to the same spirit of diversity demanded of all other institutions of the University.

Reggie Brown and John Stiglich are LSA juniors. Will Kerridge is an Engineering junior. Mark Kuehn, Dave Russell and Imran Syed are LSA sophomores.

1/22/2006 06:22:00 PM  

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