I’m not sure what I expected going into a production called “The Vagina Monologues.” Maybe some sort of quirky, feminist-inspired rom com? An intro to feminist discourse?
I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about other women and about myself. I wasn’t expecting to be forced to think about things I’d never really thought deeply about before.
And, though it may seem counterintuitive, I didn’t actually expect there to be so many vaginas everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Vagina paintings, vagina pins, vagina-inspired cupcakes, even a giant cardboard vagina cutout. More vaginas than I have ever seen in one place at the same time.
This is a part of the culture that goes along with productions of “The Vagina Monologues.” One of the main aims of the show is to de-stigmatize the vagina—to talk about it like you would any other body part, to celebrate its importance and uniqueness in womanhood. Thus, vagina-shaped everything. Shows tend to offer vagina-inspired treats (a friend of mine at DePaul acted in a production that sold chocolate vulvas) and other memorabilia.
“The Vagina Monologues” is always performed on or near V-Day, February 14. V-Day is a global movement to stop violence against women and girls. TU’s 2016 production benefits the Domestic Violence Intervention Services of Tulsa (DIVIST).
This year’s production was directed by Whitney Cipolla. Rather than being a one-act two-act sort of drama, it was set up more like a slam poetry event. Monologues were interspersed with bits of narration by Jennifer Steward, and the performers wore black outfits accented with red shoes or red cardigans.
Each monologue reflects the experiences of an individual woman, from 6-year-olds to 70-year-olds. The entire play is based on a series of interviews with women about their vaginas, their thoughts on them, their experiences with them, et cetera. This structure, combined with the costumes and the setup of the play, contributed to an organic, intimate atmosphere.
The monologues were hilarious, truthful and sometimes bitterly sad. Some women clearly had good experiences with their vaginas, and some monologues either joked about them or centered around women’s experiences with learning about themselves.
Unfortunately, some of the common themes that I noticed throughout the play were confusion, misunderstanding and pain.
One of the best performances, “The Flood,” was by Asura, who played an old woman who had an embarrassing vagina-related experience with a teenage boy and never really talked about her vagina or explored her sexuality again. The woman’s story was hilarious and saucy, but also a little bittersweet—in a sense, she’d hidden a part of herself.
“My Angry Vagina,” recited beautifully by Gracie Weiderhaft, was a heated and sassy condemnation of all the bullshit—like torturous gyno exams and dry cotton tampons—that vaginas have to endure.
“My Vagina Was My Village,” performed by Whitney Cipolla, was a heartbreaking before-and-after monologue about Bosnian women subjected to rape camps and read in tribute of all women who have been raped.
It was refreshing to see that the show is by women, for all sorts of women. Transgender women were given a nod in a heart-wrenching group monologue about the experiences of several women, “They Beat The Girl Out Of My Boy, Or So They Tried.” There was a bit of cheeky feminist humor in the narration preceding one monologue, which garnered some chuckles from the audience: “This story is about a woman who had a good experience with a man.”
Most of the humor was so effective because it addressed specific aspects of womanhood, and it was refreshing to hear someone talk about them, even laugh about them. I felt as though I was bonding with a community that I didn’t always realize I was a part of.
I will say that “The Vagina Monologues” was super graphic, to the point where even I was a bit uncomfortable at times—and I don’t consider myself to be a squeamish person or someone who’s uncomfortable with my own womanhood. And it was admittedly a bit of a shock to see artistic depictions of vaginas on every available surface.
That’s the point of the monologues, though. They’re supposed to make you uncomfortable. They’re supposed to be honest and open and make you question why you might be uncomfortable with seeing or talking about vaginas. And they’re supposed to celebrate one of the most basic aspects of womanhood.
I highly recommend seeing “The Vagina Monologues” in the event that TU hosts a production next years (and I truly hope that we do). Though the play is a celebration for women and gives women quite a bit to think about, it’s also a fantastic learning opportunity for those who aren’t familiar with the experiences of women. I laughed, learned, and maybe cried a little (Maybe. But who’s watching?).