Delivering the Conservative Line on 'Monologues'

Monique Stuart protested productions of
Monique Stuart protested productions of "The Vagina Monologues" in college. As part of the Luce Policy Institute, she asks campus conservatives to do the same. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Monique Stuart was a teenager when Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues" first appeared off-off-Broadway a decade ago.

But by the time the 24-year-old saw the play in her senior year of college, she'd already made up her mind that it wasn't worth much.

"It really confirmed everything I already thought about the play," she says.

Which explained why she was standing behind a lectern at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Northwest recently, telling other young women how to be good conservatives -- and how to bring some protest drama of their own to Ensler's work.

"'It's disgusting," she said. "The play defines women as their sexual organs."

Seventeen young women, snacking on bagels and apple juice, had gathered for this workshop at the Conservative Political Action Conference to listen to Stuart and others trash "The Vagina Monologues," which appears on hundreds of campuses every February and March as part of V-Day, a campaign Ensler helped found in the late '90s to raise awareness about violence against women.

As part of that effort, her play has become a perennial fundraiser for anti-violence organizations.

The show has always had its detractors, but this year conservatives worked to transform the season of "The Vagina Monologues" into a season of the Vagina Debates. Stuart can take some credit for that.

As program officer at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, a Herndon-based group with ties to some of Washington's most powerful conservatives, Stuart helped coordinate the movement.

"Our whole culture has become oversexualized," she said after her workshop, "and I think this play contributes to that."

The conservative effort baffles Ensler, who finds some of the objections to her play insulting. Especially, she says, the idea that her work reduces women to their body parts.

"If you had an understanding of the play, the vagina becomes the least significant thing," Ensler says.

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