A production of The Vagina Monologues in Chinese, with specially-written segments relevant to the LGBT community, played to packed audiences in Shanghai last weekend. Gay Star News speak to the director Xiao Yan about Chinese voices are calling more loudly for gay rights than for women’s rights.
Why did you decided to stage The Vagina Monologues in China?
It was in 2003 that The Vagina Monologues (VM) was first shown to Chinese audiences in Guangzhou. In 2004 it was performed at Fudan University in Shanghai, that was the first time I saw it. In 2005, I acted in it and then I set up a club called Zhehe Club in Fudan. Zhehe Club has two tasks. One is to perform the VM, the other is to promote equality between different sexualities.
Members in Zhehe Club rewrote some scenes to localize the drama instead of just perform a Chinese translation of the original Eve Ensler American version. Nine scenes have been rewritten for our current performance, including the masturbation monologue and the orgasm monologue. We’ve also added monologues about ‘tongqi’ [the wives of gay men] and an adaptation from the autobiography of Jin Xing, the famous Chinese transgender modern dancer.
Why do you think that it is important for Chinese women to see this play?
I think women all over the world should see this play!
Chinese women are very conservative about sex. We want Chinese women to more aware. I have received positive responses from women who have seen the play. They began to rethink themselves. It really encouraged me.
Shanghai women are depicted by media as enjoying equal treatment by the society but unfortunately it’s not true. Media depict successful single women as ‘Shengnv’ [left women], which means that they are left or abandoned by men because they are too obsessed with career or education. This sets the agenda and is unfair. I will probably put on shows on the topic of Shengnv next year.
As the lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization Nvai are supporting this performance I’ve added awareness-building monologues about sexual minorities, as well as women.
Why is your performance different from previous performances of VM in China?
In 2009 VM was performed in Beijing and Shanghai directed by a man. I think that male directors usually misunderstood the feminism theme and mislead the audience.
For example, I once talked with a male director in Beijing about one scene of his play. The scene told a story about a sexy girl who was judged by men as quite open and no longer a virgin, but the girl was in fact pure in mind and had sex for the first time with her husband when they get married. Her husband was disgusted with her because there was no blood after sex. The male director concluded in his play that women should protect themselves before marriage. I think this is not the theme of the VM. It went against the idea that women need to be liberated.
Do you think that China needs a feminism revolution?
Of course. But it’s too hard for Chinese women to do it. It’s difficult to do any revolutionary movement in China. We feel that the public are slowly gaining more awareness of issues like feminism and sexual minorities.
There are female professors studying feminism, but they fail to propose creative or revolutionary ideas. They only lecture about how to be good wives and ignore women’s rights.
What’s more active in China, the women’s rights movement or the gay right’s movement?
China doesn’t have a feminism movement. Chinese women don’t feel the need to fight for rights. But gay people are eager to fight because they can’t marry the person they love. There aren’t really any feminist grassroots non-governmental organizations but there are a lot of LGBT NGOs in China, hundreds.
Do you think it is easier to live as man or as a woman in China?
I want to live as a man. Men enjoy more social resources like job opportunities. Women are not protected by law when they work hard in home. For example, women’s work at home is not paid.
If you think in a different way, being awoman is easier. Women are expected to be beautiful and marry rich men. If you are a mom of daughters, you don’t need to buy property for her. It saves money to have daughters.
What do you want to achieve from this performance?
Chinese women are not aware that they are not treated equally. They are used to inequality. So the VM show aims to trigger women’s awareness. Only on the basis of this awareness can Chinese women fight for rights.
I guess more women will come to see the show then men. Women, I think, will reflect their social status after watching the play. For men, I want them to realize that there are women coexist with them in this world. Men are always self-centered.