By ANNIE KINNIBURGH
The opening monologue of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues immediately addresses the audience.
“I bet you’re worried. We were worried too. We were worried about vaginas.”
For the uninitiated UMW students waiting in Great Hall on March 21 and 22 for the fifth annual performance of The Vagina Monologues, worry was an understandable emotion.
After all, The Vagina Monologues is a performance piece that inspects, dissects and analyzes a very personal and normally avoided topic. The vagina. An awkward, uncomfortable and, as the play itself admits, unsexy word. Every woman has one, but no one talks about it.
However, in a show composed of 19 monologues covering topics from birth to love, mutilation to menstruation, the vagina was talked about—a lot.
This thematic consistency has led to the show being misunderstood, said senior Donna Weber, who performed in the show and also helped organize it.
“People get the impression that this is just a show where women bitch about their vaginas, but that’s not it,” she said. “Seeing the show is an experience you’ll never forget, and working on the show is an experience you’ll never, ever forget.”
For women both on and off the stage, The Vagina Monologues offers the opportunity to celebrate their femininity in an atmosphere that emphasizes the common bond that all women share and creates an automatic feeling of sisterhood.
“I felt like the women in the room were able to connect with one another in a way that we often don’t because the material was so raw and honest,” freshman Amanda Heathcock said.
Heathcock, who had never seen the show before, said that she found it inspiring, and would probably attend again next year.
“To be honest, it made me really proud to be female,” she said.
Senior Jenny Stout, who performed the monologue “Hair,” said that the dynamic between the actresses was one of the reasons she volunteered for the show for the second year.
Since its inception at UMW, however, The Vagina Monologues has been about more than just a performance. As part of the global movement known as V-Day, which aims to end violence against women through raising funds and awareness, proceeds from the show’s ticket sales are donated to organizations that help women in need.
Over the past five years, thousands of dollars have been donated to organizations such as Hope House, which support homeless women and their children, and Madre Tierra, a Latino support group for women who have experienced domestic violence.
This year, profits will go to the Genieve Shelter, which supports victims of domestic violence, and Students Helping Honduras, to aid in building a women’s academy to keep girls off the streets.
“Each year we end up raising more and more money,” senior Deniz Soyer said.
Soyer, who directed the show and chaired the V-Day committee, which organized V-Day activities at UMW, said that The Vagina Monologues has made a definite impact on campus in terms of raising awareness. She cited recent anti-sexual assault slogans written on campus walk by candidates for student elections.
“People on this campus have become passionate enough about this issue,” she said, “so much so, that they have made it part of their campaigns for student-held offices.”
Soyer said that interest in The Vagina Monologues has also increased in terms of the show’s audience.
“Each year, I have seen more and more men at this event,” she said. “Making a difference and stopping the violence cannot be accomplished by having an all-female audience. Everyone needs to take a stand to stop the violence.”
By using shock value coupled with an underlying message of female empowerment, The Vagina Monologues is unique in its ability to entertain while spreading awareness.
“I wish that more of my friends had come to see it,” Heathcock said. “It’s a good way to get awareness out about the issue because the provocative title and the avant garde atmosphere attract a curious crowd that’s willing to listen.”