Exporting the monologuesLast week, the Editorial Board lauded the expansion and growing success of Me Too Monologues, which saw its attendance skyrocket to nearly 1,800 students this year. Duke is now exploring the possibility of trademarking the production’s format. If Me Too Monologues is successfully trademarked, schools that put on a similar productions will have to label their show a “Duke University creation.” They would not, however, pay the University royalties.
We think trademarking Me Too Monologues would be a positive development both for Duke and for the show’s student actors and producers. Students involved in the production of Me Too Monologues approached the administration and initiated the effort to trademark the event, hoping to secure a legal base from which to launch similar productions at other schools. We commend the student-driven approach to institutionalizing Me Too Monologues and see its expansion to other campuses as a net benefit for students and the school.
Trademarking the event would affirm the University’s commitment to exploring issues of identity and equity. This is particularly important given that, since the 2006 Lacrosse scandal, Duke’s social culture has endured near-constant scrutiny, critique and negative press. Duke does not gain financially from the move, but trademarking Me Too Monologues would illustrate the University’s willingness to promote the goals of tolerance and inclusion. To our knowledge, there is no other student organization whose product enjoys trademark protection or that has been institutionalized by the University in this way. Trademarking Me Too Monologues would set a powerful precedent that might prompt the University to play a more direct role in promoting student activities and groups.
By extending trademark protection to Me Too Monologues, the University would not only provide legitimacy to the production, but also benefit from an association with a well-respected campus event. Me Too Monologues brings into the public space issues often overlooked because of their sensitive, inconvenient, or subversive nature. In doing so, the monologues promote healthy and productive dialogue that creates a more inclusive and welcoming environment for students. Attaching Duke’s name to Me Too Monologues performances at other schools promises to strengthen the University’s reputation and brand.
Trademarking would also lend credibility and leverage to Me Too Monologues’ producers as they try to set up similar shows at other Universities. The show’s trans-campus expansion strikes us as an excellent prospect, since the issues discussed in the show, even though they are specific to Duke in content, often represent universal problems or, at the very least, concerns shared by our peers at other colleges. It makes sense to encourage this kind of expression on other campuses, especially as issues like sexual assault gain greater national attention.
We do, however, have some reservations. How will the producers of Me Too Monologues ensure that similar events at other universities preserve the aims and expectations of the original production? As more and more schools host versions of Me Too Monologues, how might their productions evolve and deviate from what the founders had in mind? Of course, these concerns do not outweigh the benefits of trademarking and disseminating Me Too Monologues. Exporting the monologues does us all good.