Sarah DeStafano '19
For those of you who missed it, I’ll give you a little taste:
“My vagina’s angry. It is. It’s pissed off. My vagina’s furious and it needs to talk. It needs to talk about all this shit. It needs to talk to you. I mean what’s the deal — an army of people out there thinking up ways to torture my poor-ass, gentle, loving vagina. Spending their days constructing psycho products, and nasty ideas to undermine my pussy. Vagina Motherfuckers. All this shit they’re constantly trying to shove up us, clean us up — stuff us up, make it go away. Well, my vagina’s not going away. It’s pissed off and it’s staying right here. Like tampons — what the hell is that?” –Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
Now that the ice is broken and you’ve read the word vagina a couple of times, I think we’re good to start this thing. So, The Vagina Monologues. What is it about? The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play consisting of individual monologues, usually each performed by one woman. There are some that involve multiple women, and in some performances, the cast is so big that all the monologues have more than one woman. The monologues cover a variety of topics, many pertaining to female sexuality, empowerment and violence against women. Eve Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues in 1996, after conducting interviews with 200 women about their experiences with sex, relationships, and violence. Shortly after, the monologues first debuted at the Off-Broadway Westside Theatre in Manhattan. The play began as a source of body and feminist positivity initially, but after only a few years the goal of the play shifted primarily to ending gender based violence. The Vagina Monologues is the cornerstone of the V-Day movement, which is a non-profit started by Eve Ensler to raise money for initiatives to end gender based violence. Eve Ensler founded V-Day after witnessing women’s reactions to The Vagina Monologues.
Every year, The Vagina Monologues is performed at college campuses across the nation as well as at community centers and local theaters. There are even international performances, which I learned when I was living in Lima, Peru and had to opportunity to see the show there. The performances are supposed to be almost uniform. What I mean by that is that there are a couple of rules that are typically recognized at the performances. The show must take place within a specific window of time close to V-Day, the entire cast must wear all black with a red accent and there are certain rules about substituting out monologues. The Vagina Monologues has received criticism over the years for being too reductionist and narrow in its presentation of what it means to be a woman and a feminist. This criticism has been met with more efforts to include women of color and transgender women. Some performances, like those of my undergraduate university, met this criticism by opening up the stage for original monologues written by students that wanted to share their own experiences.
Now that you have some background information on what the monologues are, we can move on to the performances that were at the law school last Thursday and Friday. The cast included ten women, most of whom were law students at UVa, and seventeen monologues were performed. Of the law students in the cast, most were 1Ls. The event was co-sponsored by four different UVa Law organizations: The Domestic Violence Project, Women of Color, Feminist Legal Forum, and Virginia Law Women. The show was free, with donations encouraged, and all proceeds went to the Shelter for Help in Emergency (SHE) in Charlottesville. This was the second annual performance of The Vagina Monologues at UVa Law, and we are hoping to have many more shows in years to come.
For anyone interested in joining next year, the time commitment was minimal—it really just consists of memorizing your lines. One of the best parts about The Vagina Monologues is that, because it is simply supposed to be women talking about their experiences, the scenes involve minimal props and blocking. The roles are equally perfect for women that have had theater experience and women that have never set foot in a theater. It is a very casual performance, as far as theatrics go, but the messages in the monologues pack a powerful punch. In my opinion, the juxtaposition of the minimalist set and the candor of the words add to the genuine quality of the show.
If you are a woman, I would consider being a part of the show next year or at least seeing it. If you do not identify as a woman, I would still highly encourage you to see the show. Seeing the performance and being involved in the show is moving, entertaining, and empowering. This performance was my fifth time in The Vagina Monologues, and before that I had never acted outside of my sixth-grade mandatory school play about teamwork. Being involved in The Vagina Monologues throughout my undergraduate experience was a particularly empowering piece of my college career; it is truly amazing what surrounding yourself with strong women committed to ending violence can do for your experience anywhere. I would highly recommend it.