The Vagina Monologues, put on by the University of Redlands’ Center for Gender and Justice took place last Friday and Saturday evening in the Glenn Wallichs Theater. For those unfamiliar with the Vagina Monologues, it is a an episodic play written by playwright and activist, Eve Ensler. The stories represented are those of over 200 women from all different backgrounds sharing their experiences with sexuality, surviving rape and abuse, creating an open dialogue and freely talking about vaginas.
Upon entering the theater, people were handed a pamphlet introducing the directors and cast members of the production– students of all different years and majors. Included in everyone’s bio was the answer to the question: “What would your vagina wear if it were to get dressed up?” Some answers included: “A hat, hiking boots, a flannel and overalls.” Another woman said “A classy jumper.” Also included in their bios was the advice they would give to other women along with what empowers them, “wearing funky clothes, loving her flirtatious sexaulity and being naked by herself.”
The lights in the theater dimmed and the audience quieted as three female students came onstage to briefly introduce themselves and the production, then the mologues began. Each monologue differed from the others, from stories of older women about their lives and sexual experiences, to stories of first discovering one’s sexuality, to the heartbreaking saga of genital mutilation and being raped in third world countries.
The first monologue was relayed both in English and Spanish by students, a story of a woman whose husband cheated on her and claimed it was because she refused to shave her vagina. The next was told by an older woman, a sad tale of how, upon having her first kiss, a flood of excitement came from her vagina, and the boy, disgusted, drove her home. After that day, she was closed for business, her shame too great to ever be in a relationship again. Both these stories focused on the importance of having a partner who is accepting of a woman’s body and all that comes with it, and the painful impact rejection of natural processes can have. Women should never be made to feel ashamed of their bodies, but instead loved for who they are and all that their bodies can do.
Other monologues included the traumatizing stories of genital mutilation that takes place in some parts of Africa, starting as early as age 5, continuing until when young girls are 14 and the clitoris is literally cut out of their body. I squirmed in my seat at the thought of what kind of painful torture these poor girls are made to endure. Another told the saga of a woman who was held hostage in a war-torn country, where soldiers attacked her, raping her, putting guns and glass bottles inside of her precious body, making her fear life more than death.
A powerful act entitled: “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could” recounts a young girls memories and experiences with her vagina growing up. She speaks on specific memories at certain ages in her life: At age seven, she was kicked in the vagina by a boy and blamed by her mother for “letting someone touch her down there,” at age 10 she faced the trauma of being raped by her father’s best friend, at age 13 she sees her “Coochie Snorcher as a place of pain and nastiness.” And finally at age 16, she has an experience with an older woman who transforms how she thinks about her body, allowing her to now see her vagina as a “kind of haven.”
The final monologue was delivered by Leela Madhava Rau, Assistant Dean for Campus Diversity and Inclusion. This was a powerful and moving act that narrated the pain and overwhelming amount of harm caused by sexual assault and harassment. Between statistics and personal stories, this monologue sent chills through my body and talked greatly about the time’s up movement. It emphasized the point that sexual assault needs to end, once and for all, so that the dialogue surrounding women, their bodies and their vaginas, can finally change for good.
The Vagina Monologues normalize the use of the word “vagina,” enabling women to be more open with their bodies and feel more confident in their self image. These monologues create a space where women are able to talk openly about their bodies without being shamed for it but actually encouraged and supported. Women speaking about their vaginas are encouraged to be hushed or silenced. Rather than stifle, we should encourage women to embrace these experiences with their bodies and sexuality and continue to shed light on the importance of issues like violence against women, rape culture, intersectionality and so much more.
Photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer, Miracle Cariaga.