I'm Honored (and Confused)

So this afternoon as I was meeting with one of my advisees, she mentioned she's working with a performance of "The Vagina Monologues," and asked whether I'd like to be a reader. This stunned me a little, as my understanding - and I'll confess more than a bit of cultural ignorance here - was that the Monologues were intended to be read by women.

Citing fear of over-commitment (oh, isn't it ironic?), I said I didn't think I could help, but offered her the option of pitching to my class for help. In hindsight, though, it occurs to me that I may have been over-hasty. First, because I'm always honored when a students asks me to help with something they care about. But second because I responded without recognizing my own lack of facts. So, those in the know, please fill me in and offer your thoughts and advice.

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Dr. Crazy said...

Yeah, it is only intended to be read by women. While I'll say that it does potentially make an interesting statement if men are called upon to read the roles, I'm not sure it would come out as a similarly *feminist* statement, or a statement that has anything to do with what the play intends politically.

If it makes you feel better, I'd probably say no if a student asked me to be a reader for The Vagina Monologues, and I'm a woman. Why would I probably say no? Well, because ultimately I think that there are more interesting plays that have much more interesting takes on feminism(s). TVM is, to me, a very limited sort of approach to feminism that doesn't leave a lot of room for other versions, and it annoys me that anybody with a vagina is supposed to support it. All of this is a long way of saying that just because one is honored when a student makes such a request (as I always am, too), it doesn't mean that one has to say yes to it. You can express your pleasure about being asked even as you say no.

October 18, 2007 at 8:09 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Some of what's fed into why I'm wondering about participation in this is that its rare enough to have a student make such a request that I feel almost indebted to try. And at this school, I feel like there's such a struggle to get anyone to think about questions of race, gender or sexuality that I should be helping tend (and attend) those instances where they do turn up in hopes something might take root.

There's also a self-serving aspect: this would stand out, however it'd be listed, during my reviews and moves toward tenure. And there's the bit of distress that there is a cultural moment that I should probably know more about that I actually do.

October 18, 2007 at 9:53 AM
Dr. Crazy said...

Well, here's the thing: you can still support the student just by attending, and you can support the student by finding out more about the project and by helping the student to find appropriate readers. I see what you're saying about wanting to support the project given the culture of the institution, and also about how it would be perceived come review time, too. Is there any way you could support the project in a documentable way that doesn't involve you reading?

October 18, 2007 at 3:14 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

That's more or less been my thought, though I think if there had been a space that wouldn't have felt contentious for me to read, I'd have found myself willing now that I've got some context for things. It makes more sense - for all sorts of reasons - to find a way other than reading to support them, though.

Thanks for the thoughts, Dr. C.

October 18, 2007 at 6:02 PM
Heidi said...

you know, this amused me: "there's the bit of distress that there is a cultural moment that I should probably know more about that I actually do."
i suspect there are a whole bunch of cultural moments that are just passing me right by these days ...!

October 19, 2007 at 1:52 PM