The UW-Milwaukee Women’s Resource Center hosted their fourth year of the Vagina Monologues directed by UWM sophomore Eva Juniel on Feb. 12 and the 13. Proceeds from the performance will benefit Hmong American Women’s Association, Inc., a non-profit committed to violence prevention and social change.
Eve Ensler published The Vagina Monologues in 1996 to what Charles Isherwood of The New York Times considers “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.”
In Ensler’s play, women perform various monologues that cover aspects of sex, menstruation, rape, birth and the numerous names for the vagina.
Performers this weekend ranged from local Milwaukee artists, musicians and UW-Milwaukee graduates. The diversity of the cast spanned across generations, race and identification.
Friday evening’s show did not disappoint, opening up with an introduction as a “call to action for all genders” to raise awareness and prevention of violence against women along with a vow of allies and advocates in support of V-Day.
V-Day is a global activist movement taking place around the globe to end violence against women and girls with grassroots organizations changing laws, creating crises centers and domestic violence shelters.
The Vagina Monologues started with energy and amusement as their first performance addressed how women go days, months and even years without looking at their own vagina. Not only is the thought of looking at vaginas a foreign idea, but the cluster of names attributed to the vagina created even more of an alien notion.
During the introduction, I was educated on the numerous nicknames for a vagina like “pookie,” “monkey box” and a “nappy dug-out,” and I’ve got to say, the East Coast is one creative place.
The play went even more personal as the second act titled “Hair” began. Pubic hair these days has become more of a taboo than something natural, so in this story the idea of forcing a woman to shave just to “please her man” was shown in the light of the woman’s perspective.
“There was no protection, there was no fluff,” she said and “realized hair is there for a reason.”
Of course, all acts where not laughter and butterflies. Performances like “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy, or So They Tried” addressed the horrible situations young children and adolescents face as they begin to realize they were not born in the right body. Taunting and physical abuse were common obstacles for these story tellers.
“My Vagina Was My Village” was also a hard-hitting monologue taken from a Bosnian woman in a Yugoslavian refugee camp who experienced acts of war and rape from numerous soldiers. Her “village,” so to speak, was raided and destroyed, set ablaze by strangers.
My experience watching the Vagina Monologues was enlightening and beautiful. Education through laughter and thought-provoking performances created an even deeper respect for women, vaginas and self-worth. It was liberating to hear so many stories addressing the shame women can feel and the empowerment that can stem from it.
As the show wrapped up, there is one line that still resonates with me, which is “become disrupters, fighting and dancing for life over comfort.” It’s up to everyone to take a stance against institutional and internalized sexism and to create a safe and open dialog amongst people.
I highly recommend The Vagina Monologues to any and all people and to please support efforts for women’s health and education.