“Please stand if you are or know someone who is a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Please stand if you are going to do something to foster positive change in our community.”
These requests, asked at the end of the show by co-director Lisle Coleman, refocus the audience’s attention to the real reason for the incredible performance they had just witnessed. Here at UR, “The Vagina Monologues” is an annual fundraiser put on by Women’s Caucus. All of the profits from ticket and merchandise sales go to supporting Safe Journey and V-Day. Safe Journey is an organization that helps victims of all types of abuse, with no cost to the victims, while V-Day is a global activist movement dedicated to fighting violence against women and girls all over the world. In fact, this year the performance was able to garner over $2000 in fundraising.
Judging by the number of people who stood when Lisle asked these questions, violence and abuse against women is no small scale problem, but it is a cause that many are willing to fight for. It is a global issue that requires much more awareness and support, and The Vagina Monologues is an excellent avenue to raise money and spread that awareness. Originally written in 1996 by Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” is a play made up of short episodes, each discussing vaginas through different stories and from different perspectives. Ensler based the play off of 200 interviews she held with all sorts of women, asking them about sex, relationships, and, of course, their vaginas. At the time, and even today, simply the word vagina seemed taboo. It was seen as vulgar, unpleasant, and even unacceptable. Ensler originally sought to celebrate vaginas and femininity with her work, to take the negative connotation of vaginas. However, in 1998, Ensler decided to change her groundbreaking piece into a movement to stop violence against women.
With monologues concerning issues like rape and genital mutilation, the play has inevitably received criticism. However, this has not deterred the play’s popularity or progress. Each year, a new monologue is added in order to address current issues that continue to affect women around the world. Now performed all over the country, “The Vagina Monologues” indeed serves to spread awareness of the horrors of violence against women.
Directed by Lisle Coleman and Zena Levan, “The Vagina Monologues” was performed by 25 incredibly talented young women from UR. Each girl delivered her monologue with appropriate zeal and emotion, each reaching the audience effectively. The monologues ranged from light-hearted to intense, narrative to poetic. Although each monologue was powerful and significant in their own ways, three stood out considerably, judging by the cheers they received. Firstly, “My Angry Vagina” expressed, obviously, how “angry” vaginas are due to the injustices they suffer like tampons, douches, and those horrible “cold duck lips” that OB/GYNs use. Delivered with anger and cleverness, the monologue made us laugh through the humorous anecdotes and blunt, honest language. But it also called attention to the seriousness of the cruelty vaginas undergo when they’re supposed to be taken care of. This seriousness takes a more solemn tone with another monologue, “My Vagina Was My Village,” one that brilliantly juxtaposed one girl’s view of her vagina, as a bright and happy place or feeling, with another girl’s. This second girl represented the Bosnian women who were abused and raped as a tactic of war. The two girls took turns talking about their vaginas, all the while the rape victim’s story grew darker and more painful. Having laughed at most of the previous monologues, the audience was silent, taking in the reality of the pain and suffering that abuse causes.
Despite this graphic and solemn monologue, most of “The Vagina Monologues” pieces were light-hearted and celebrated women and their vaginas. The most memorable piece of the night was undoubtedly “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vagina’s Happy.” This monologue came from a woman who had previously been a lawyer, but had realized her true passion lies in making women moan. The second to last performance, this monologue was the peak of the play, literally climaxing with a demonstration of all sorts of moans, ending with “the triple orgasm.” With the audience rolling around and howling with laughter, this monologue definitely succeeded in getting girls to embrace their vaginas and sexuality and to make light of a word that is so often looked down upon.
In fact, every monologue seemed to have provoked new thoughts and views for many people in the audience. This show has been so successful likely because it reaches so many different people – young and old, straight and gay – and through such a wide variety of topics, that its messages are bound to affect someone.
The Vagina Monologues may not have been a conventional play or performance, but it was indeed thought provoking. Not only was the play itself worthwhile, but so is the cause it represents. The abuse of women and girls is an issue that cannot be ignored.
Perez is a member of
the class of 2016.