On Feb. 10 and 11, Western Carolina University presented its 6th annual production of the Vagina Monologues. The collection of monologues was written by Eve Ensler and is based on actual interviews with women of various ages and backgrounds.
I recently sat down with Kaleb Xander Lynch, the director of this year’s production, to discuss his position on the Monologues, and how he hopes the stage production will impact WCU students.
AP: Kaleb, what would you like people to know about the Vagina Monologues?
KXL: It’s not about alienating men and it’s not about genitals. It’s about educating people about women’s issues and providing awareness for said issues. And it’s about ending violence against women, really, and about gender equality.
AP: So what was the focus of this year’s Vagina Monologues?
KXL: This year the focus was the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo. There’s a war raging there and women are bearing the brunt of that war. So the theme of our show was “stop raping our greatest resource” because “Congo is the heart of Africa, and Africa is the heart of the world. Women are the core of the heart” (quoted from the Vagina Monologues).
AP: I heard there was some controversy around this year’s VM. Why was that?
KXL: Well, this year is the first year that a student has ever directed it, and on top of that, the student being a man, and on top of that, the student being a transgender man. So there were a lot of different things going on this year that hadn’t gone on in the past. Plus, we had a first year director of the Women’s Center, Michelle Clonch. I think that the people supervising the Monologues were kind of nervous about having a student director, but Michelle fought for me to be able to do it. And I think there was some question in the general campus about why a man wanted to be so deeply involved, and that was the saddest part to me.
AP: What about advertising for the Monologues? I heard there was a bit of controversy on campus about that.
KXL: Yeah, all of our stuff was scrutinized a good bit this year. The advertising that we had initially for auditions was…we put it out and the people supervising asked us to take it down after a while. We came up with some new stuff. Then we had to have it approved by them before we could put it out. Last year, we solicited people for donation off campus, and we had a good deal of sponsors from that. This year we were only allowed to get sponsors from on-campus, and only those who sponsored last year. We were only allowed to talk to people that had done it, and that put a damper on how much money we were allowed to raise this year. 40% of the profits we made went to the REACH Center in Jackson County and the other 60% went to the V-Day Organization and women’s programs and stuff like that. It put a damper on things for sure.We still raised twice as much as last year, but only after some real extensive efforts.
AP: From a director’s standpoint, what did you think about the performance?
KXL: It went…I can’t even put it into words, it went so well. I was really blown away. The cast was excellent, all very talented performers with unique personalities and it definitely showed. I tried to give them as much autonomy in rehearsals and performance as I could, and I think that shows because it was so different from past years, and it wasn’t so monotonous. They really got into it. I enjoyed both shows. I can’t get tired of it.
AP: As a man, what made you want to be so involved in the Vagina Monologues?
KXL: Having spent 20 years of my life in a female body and being socialized as a female, I have a pretty good understanding of what women go through, the discriminations and injustices that sexism and misogyny bring on. Now that I have transitioned, I live my life as a man. I never want to become the oppressor or get sucked into this patriarchal idea that it’s okay to treat women poorly or differently than you would anyone else. I’ve been on the cast for three years previously, and decided that I still wanted to be involved. But because I don’t live in the female world anymore, I felt like I should help out in anyway that I could besides performing. Regardless of my trans identity, I would still want to be involved because it’s a matter of equality and social justice. Regardless of the sex you are born into, this isn’t an issue of chromosomes. This is an issue of people and fighting for what’s right. A lot of people don’t think that sexism is alive and well, and it’s particularly alive and well. The levels are so overwhelming that we don’t even realize it anymore, in the jokes we make about women and the way that we systematically oppress them still. It’s not right and it’s not fair. We need to raise awareness about it.
AP: How can the student body get involved with issues of feminism or other social advocacy?
KXL: There are organizations all over campus and in our community that cater to anything and everything you are interested in. The Women’s Center has a lot of programs, and if you want to get involved or help out there up on the 3rd floor of the UC. And they welcome anyone who is interested in helping out. The REACH Center is also a good place to volunteer your time; they’re always looking for some one to work their 24 hour crisis line. There are other volunteer duties and they have a thrift store in Sylva where they can also use volunteers. Their number is (828) 631-4488.
AP: Well, I thank you for your interview. Any parting words?
KXL: Thanks to everyone who attended or volunteered. Thank you for helping to further your own education about women’s issues. And for those who weren’t able to come or maybe didn’t want to come, you missed out on a great production. Hopefully, the presence of this kind of production on this campus can spark something to help you evaluate where you stand on these type of issues. And hopefully you can learn something about yourself. Hopefully it will change your opinion of what a feminist is and what a feminist looks like, because we’re all very different. We’re not all women. Men, use your male privilege to help women. That’s something that I’m learning how to do.