Sexual agency and empowerment, rape and tampons — no topics were left behind as performers read the experiences of other women during The Vagina Monologues. This content was taken from diverse groups of women, but all of it centered around one of the most well-known symbols of being a female.
Last week, the Coordinated Community Care Response Team Awareness Events Committee brought this production to campus. According to committee chair and Prevention Education and Advocacy Center coordinator Samantha Dickens, C3RT handles policy and programs concerned with issues of sexual and domestic violence.
The committee reached out to the Student Experimental Theatre Association in an effort to find performers.
SETO member freshman theater performance major Sadie Harvey, of Knoxville, Tennessee, jumped at the chance to perform in the show. Harvey said the informal-style show is based off interviews done with over 100 women that were then turned into monologues.
“[The informalness] makes it a lot more conversational and more real,” Harvey said. “I think the overall message of the Vagina Monologues reaches the audience because of that; they actually get that intimate moment of ‘oh, she’s really telling me this right now.’”
The show was performed Feb. 12 during the V-Day campaign. According to Dickens, during the campaign colleges and other groups receive select monologues for free. Dickens said that the timing of this promotion was intentional.
“It’s free during this time of year because people are thinking about their relationships and they are thinking about their experiences; particularly women are thinking about their experiences,” Dickens said.
The monologues were inspired by women from all around the world, ranging from Bosnia to Ukraine. Performer and senior elementary education major Leah Benyo, of Naperville, Illinois, said that this helps to broaden the audience’s world view.
“We don’t really think about things that are happening [around the world] because we don’t have to because it’s not us,” Benyo said. “So, bringing all these issues to light is like ‘wow, there’s a whole world outside this bubble of the United States. There’s a whole world that horrible things are happening to.’ It’s a good eye-opening experience.”
Location is not the only factor in one’s experiences. Dickens said factors such as race, ethnicity and gender identity also contribute to the wide range of topics covered in the monologues.
“[The diverse monologues are] so vital because your background as a woman influences and informs the experiences you have,” Dickens said. “The experience that a white woman has is not going to be the one that a black woman or Latina woman has. Someone who is transgender is going to have a very different experience than someone who is cisgender.”
Dickens said the word ‘vagina’ goes beyond an anatomical term, it can also be used to refer to the connection between all who identify as a woman in being part of a minority group.
“There was the underlying theme of connection that the thing that all women have in common [is called] ‘the vagina.’ People may think that it’s just something physical but it’s not, what they’re really discussing is the essence of being a woman,” Dickens said.
Audience member senior English education and theater performance major David Zimmerman, of Vandalia, Illinois, said although he didn’t directly relate to the content as a man, he could relate to central themes.
“There were several monologues that were about taking ownership of oneself, and I think that as a man who doesn’t necessarily take a lot of pride in my own masculinity that’s something that I can also relate to, so those feelings and those emotions are also present,” Zimmerman said.
Counseling Services and Call for Help had tables set up outside of the Conference Center during the event for those struggling with the difficult themes such as sexual assault and violence that the show discussed. If in need of assistance, students may contact Counseling Services at 618-650-2842 or Call for Help Inc. at 618-397-0968.