Last night, February 15th, Sister Speak and NOW sponsored a performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Memorial Hall Auditorium. I had heard about Eve Ensler’s play several times, but I had never caught a performance myself.
As soon as I walked in, I chose a seat away from the crowd. I admit that I was a bit uncomfortable about the thought of listening to women talk into a loud microphone to a multi-gender audience about their vaginas. My personal space was a must for this experience. However, the auditorium was packed and the empty seats around me filled up one by one. I felt a pressure on my chest, and a strong need to check my phone for the time. What time is it? Does the play start at seven?
As you might guess, once the lights went down, it didn’t take long for the laughter to replace the tension in the room. The women on stage were brave, uninhibited, and most importantly, honest. With the introduction and performance of each monologue, I realized that I could individually connect with each woman’s experience. Eve Ensler intended this realization within her audience, so that women could come face to face with the importance of their relationship with their body, including, and especially, their vagina! Some monologues centered around abuse, some around love and sensuality, some about neglect and abandonment, some about embarrassment, and as a woman, I could relate to each and every one. This surprised me, because I had never realized how many memories and experiences I had that involved my own vagina, from childhood, adolescence, and as a young adult!
In our culture, it is not uncommon for women to grow up being taught that their vaginas are bad or dirty, and that women should not love and accept that mysterious body part between their legs. Eve Ensler’s, The Vagina Monologues, asks an entire audience of men and women to directly acknowledge the importance of the vagina as a body part and as a part of life, and to recognize the experiences that women share because of it.
As if the play didn’t accomplish enough already—Eve Ensler designed The Vagina Monologues to be malleable to specific areas of concern across the globe. After the first few performances of the play, Ensler created V-DAY, an organization focused on ending violence against women. For example, JMU’s version of The Vagina Monologues also focused on the V-DAY 2010 Spotlight—the experiences of women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (or DRC). Special monologues and introductions concerning women and girls of the DRC exposed the raw truth about the rape, disease, and sexual abuse these women experience there. This way, the play not only forced us to come to terms with our own bodies and sexuality, but it asked the audience to consider the experiences, however horrifying, of women outside of western culture.
The performance is not a new one. It has influenced many women and men around the world since its debut in 1996. But it was certainly a new experience for me, and for many others in the audience I’m sure.
The writing at the top of the pamphlet made me proud.
James Madison University is Honored to Present
The Vagina Monologues
I am lucky to live on a campus that supports women in their efforts to share their unique experiences, and because I was able to see this play, I walked away feeling more comfortable in my own skin, proud of my womanhood—every last piece of it.
Bravo & congratulations to Director Rebecca Wishon and her fierce, all female cast!
Thank you Sister Speak, NOW, and Student Wellness & Outreach for sponsoring this liberating event!
Follow Bell Brumberg’s twitter account for updates & additions to the blog!