Laughing, crying, moaning: “The Vagina Monologues” has it all
EVENTS AND CULTURE EDITOR
This weekend, performers at the Loudis Recital Hall let the audience in on a secret: “Women love talking about their vaginas.”
In “The Vagina Monologues,” students performed short narratives related to feminism, women’s experiences and, of course, vaginas. The stories ranged from a tragic account of sexual violence against Bosnian refugees to a woman’s pursuit of orgasm-induced moans to a more lighthearted discussion of the various nicknames for vaginas. These names included university-themed euphemisms like the cockpit, South Campus and the creamery.
Created by Eve Ensler in 1996, “The Vagina Monologues” compiles stories from 200 interviews with women living in New York City. This production, which is performed on college campuses across the nation, opens up a conversation about topics that are often ignored.
“The monologues make you think about different aspects of being a woman that you may not have thought about before,” Gabrielle Francis, a senior psychology major and two-time Vagina Monologue performer, says. “Like one of the monologues is about body hair. I remember when I listened to that I was like, ‘I never really thought about the fact that us shaving is weird.’ Then after I was like, ‘You know that is kinda strange. Why do we have to shave?’”
Francis also says that the conversations with fellow students during rehearsals were especially empowering and important to her. The performers, a majority of whom are not involved in other theater organizations or productions on campus, would meet for practice and often ended up discussing layered meanings behind specific lines and how they were or were not connecting with their monologue. According to Francis, this dynamic created a supportive and enlightening community.
At the university, the production has been sponsored for over a decade by V-Day, a club that fights sexual violence by increasing awareness and fundraising. The event not only creates an on-campus dialogue about feminism and the experiences of women, but also raises money for Natasha’s Justice Project. All voluntary donations go to the organization, which strives to end the rape kit backlog in the United States. According to their website, the buildup of untested rape kits in evidence rooms prevents victims of sexual violence from seeking legal justice.
Despite the feminist themes of the production and its philanthropic purpose, controversy over whether or not the monologues are inclusive to all women and support an intersectional conception of feminism remains.
“As a whole, because the monologues are so vagina-centric, they aren’t very inclusive, so they aren’t always catered to women who aren’t cis-women,” Anna Shields, a sophomore political science and public policy major says. “The material could be improved, but we do work very hard to adjust the wording and tweak lines that are a little bit insensitive.”
Francis hopes that people in the audience will feel so empowered and inspired by the play that they decide to audition. That way, the group of performers will become increasingly diverse and representative.
After watching the production for the first time, Jessica Hall, a sophomore psychology major, says she would definitely see the show again if she has another opportunity.
“Going to a production like this was definitely a little out of my comfort zone,” Hall says. “But, I ended up finding ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to be solemn, comical and inspiring all at the same time. The overall message of empowerment was unapologetically strong.”