BY DYLYN PETERSON
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
On Feb. 10, UAS put on a production of Eve Ensler’s feminist play “The Vagina Monologues” as part of the V-Day movement, which seeks to end violence against women.
V-Day was also created by Ensler, and started as a nationwide group of performances of “The Vagina Monologues” on Feb. 14, 1998. The performances were royalty-free, and proceeds benefited women suffering from violence and sexual abuse. It became international a few years later, eventually spawning the One Billion Rising movement – the “one billion” in reference to the statistic that one in three women are beaten or raped in their lifetime. One Billion Rising has organized protests in over 100 countries.
The play, “The Vagina Monologues” is a collection of monologues from women, adapted from 200 interviews with a variety of women that Eve Ensler conducted in 1996. It is updated regularly with new monologues. The performance at UAS featured some of the most popular and well-liked of them.
Its subjects vary from a litany of responses to questions asked of interviewees, such as “If your vagina wore clothes, what would they look like?” and, “If your vagina could speak, what two words would it say?” to descriptions of sexual experiences (including an hilarious one from a lesbian sex worker), to very graphic details of the rape camps in the Bosnian war.
Naturally, the play is controversial. It has been widely criticized for a perceived bias against heterosexual intercourse – every positive sexual experience being lesbian in nature – as well as its complete lack of favorable depictions of men. One monologue, particularly disturbing to some, features answers from a six-year-old girl.
The most well-known criticism of the play comes from Robert Swope, who wrote a review of the play in 2000 for a university newspaper called The Hoya. He took issue with one story about a thirteen-year-old (who is now written as sixteen) who was given alcohol and seduced by a twenty-four-year-old woman. Swope took issue particularly with the last line of the monologue (now removed), saying that even if it was statutory rape, it was a good one. He was fired from the paper before the article was ever printed.
Personally, I have some issues with it, too, but more from a creative writing perspective. The monologues vary wildly in tone, from funny to tragic to deeply emotional, without any sort of build-up or direction. In fairness, I can’t find any preferred order to the play, so this might just be a problem we had in town.
My biggest issue, and I’ve already gotten in a number of arguments with friends over it, is that some of the segments aren’t notable enough for the time they’re given, and some of sections with the most important statements are very brief by comparison.
Having said all that, I think now is a good time to go into the performance I attended. This isn’t the first time “The Vagina Monologues” has been held at UAS, although it is the first time any current undergraduate students would have heard about it. It was held in the Egan Lecture Hall. The ratio of women to men in the audience was maybe four to one.
Our performance was different from some in that almost every monologue was performed by a different woman; originally, it was all Eve Ensler. Everybody who performed did a great job, although they were all reading off of a script. Some of the women were current students, prominent community members, or staff here at UAS (some of whom I see on a daily basis). It’s not every day I see people I know spend four minutes mimicking different orgasm styles in front of a hundred people. This was mitigated significantly by most of the performers’ confidence, although some of the more nervous ones made me feel pretty uncomfortable after a while.
In all, it was a good event, although anybody who didn’t already know what V-Day is (myself, for example) would’ve been confused by the posters advertising it. I hope to see similar events around town next year.