A month ago, the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the City of West Hollywood presented the Vagina Monologues. The event was a complete success and we raised over $5,000 for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles! While the cast and crew worked together and formed a community in West Hollywood, communities were being ripped apart by senseless gun violence that took the lives of 17 beautiful souls at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida
The cast and crew began to have discussions over a specific monologue and whether or not the audience, or cast members, would be triggered by its use of gun specific language in relation to the power of the vagina.
Here is the monologue in its original form (with the text below):
The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure. The clitoris is simply a bundle of nerves: 8,000 nerve fibers, to be precise. That’s a higher concentration of nerve fibers than is found anywhere else in the male or female body, including the fingertips, lips, and tongue, and it is twice, twice, twice the number in the penis. Who needs a handgun when you’ve got a semi-automatic?
Our cast and crew decided to take out the last line of the monologue out of respect for not only the audience but also the tragic state-of-affairs our country seems to be in when it comes to anti-gun advocacy. While we all understand the overall effect that the line itself is trying to evoke, the fact that we began to have this discussion is where I want to break down my personal reaction that I had to remove it.
To be completely honest, I was the lone voice in pushing to keep the line in and I found that to be quite jarring as I am completely anti-gun. In all honesty, I hate guns. Raised in Wisconsin (a proud hunting state), I never had my parents get permission for me to go away for a week once hunting season started to sit up in a tree and kill innocent creatures. I don’t understand how anyone would find that enjoyable. I really don’t understand the purpose of guns outside of warfare and even then, why we wouldn’t push for peace before any type of physical or violent actions were required.
I found myself perplexed by removing the line. Why did I think we needed to keep this line in? I was impacted by the tragic events in Florida too, however, wasn’t I also impacted by the events in Las Vegas, San Bernardino, and the countless other gun deaths that occur on a day-to-day basis here in the United States. Why now? Why was Parkland different” Why didn’t we have this conversation after Sandy Hook or Las Vegas?
Gun violence has become a daily occurrence in America and it has become so normalized that most of us are unaware that as a result of its frequency, the impact each incident has on us is being diminished. I’ve found myself wondering: “Is this the new normal?” Is the “new normal” in America that no one is willing to stand up to the NRA or the politicians that they buy every single election? We know that the teenagers in Parkland aren’t going to let this be the new normal but what about everyone else? Has it gotten to the point that even I, a liberal Democrat, am defending gun specific language in a piece that is suppose to be an empowering cry about the power of the vagina? Much like the opening of the Vagina Monologues states that: “we were worried about Vaginas,” I too became worried, not just about vaginas but rather where our country is headed if we finally do not do something about gun violence in America.
We need to understand that our actions need to be more than just a march; more than draining the NRA; and more than just electing anti-gun politicians. We need to realize that this is on all of us and our success won’t be who can literally destroy who but rather who works together more effectively to actually implement a strategy where enough actually means, enough. We need to be worried about a lot right now, but the safety of our children attending schools free from violence shouldn’t be one of them. We should EXPECT safety and security for our children and not have to worry whether or not that when you drop your kids off in the morning that that could be the last time you see them alive.
Yes, we need to march for our lives but we need to march for our country and take it back, together, otherwise, I fear that we will have to be worried about a lot more in the years to come. So, my question to you is not: did you attend March for Our Lives; rather: what are you going to do after the march?
John Erickson is the President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women. John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University where he is finishing up his dissertation tentatively titled “Step Sons and Step Daughter”: Chosen Communities, Religion, and LGBT Liberation.” John holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies. He is the Founding and Past President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association and currently serves as the Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club, a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. He is a permanent contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Co-Founder of the blog The Engaged Gaze, and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. In April 2017, he was the first openly gay athlete to be inducted into the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference Hall of Fame. Most recently, John was one of the coordinators of the Women’s March Los Angeles, which brought together 750,000 people in downtown Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, and a Committee Member for the #ResistMarch, which brought together 100,000 people from Hollywood to West Hollywood in honor of LA Pride on June 11, 2017.
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