‘Vagina Monologues’ shocks, teaches

Kelly Novak

The organization W.I.S.H., Women in Support of Humanity, staged a reading of “The Vagina Monologues” in Buckman Theater this past weekend on the Mount Carmel Campus.

The sixteen monologues performed were written by Eve Ensler in 1996, stemming from hundreds of interviews with women of all ages from all over the world. The monologues address topics such as sex, love, rape, masturbation, birth and orgasm, and have been translated into over 48 different languages for performance in over 140 countries.

The production on Friday and Saturday included 11 women seated in a semi-circle on stage around a podium. They wore black with pops of red, appropriate for the Valentine’s Day performance.

Choosing this weekend to perform was no coincidence, according to co-president of W.I.S.H., Brenna Sheehan. “The Vagina Monologues” is always scheduled as close as possible to February 14 to promote V-Day, which is a “global activism movement to help stop violence against women and girls,” according to the V-Day organization’s website.

To perform her monologue, each woman would step up to the podium, her words written or pasted on festive colored paper. At first, it was uncomfortable to hear the word “vagina” uttered so casually so many times and to hear the stories that followed. This female organ is often never spoken about, so it took some time getting used to the idea of it being the topic of conversation for over an hour in so many different ways.

The women were well prepared and delivered their prose with purpose. Soon, the discomfort faded away and empowerment took its place. Each piece was relatable and commanding in its own right, but there were some that stuck with me for their messages and how they were performed.

“They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy…or So They Tried” was performed by W.I.S.H. Advisor Caitie Abrahamson, Caren Collins, Maria Vardaro, Marisa Otis, and Annie Dwyer. The women shared duties in explaining what it was like for a transgender woman to finally find herself. Born a boy, she was beat up and taunted, joining the military only to drop out and travel around the country to find other people like her. In the end, her gender transformation became complete, and therefore she did, too. The piece was poignant and heartbreaking as they explained how her boyfriend was beaten to death for “falling in love with ambiguity.”

Another stand-out, “My Short Skirt,” performed by Caren Collins, was the definition of female liberation. Originally performed by Calista Flockhart in 2001, the monologue is the story of a woman’s short skirt formerly being known as a reason for rape, judgment and mistreatment. Now, it is a symbol of power, individuality and choice.

“My short skirt, believe it or not has nothing to do with you,” Collins proudly proclaimed.

Though she only performed one, short monologue, Alyssa Dunn was given the task of “Reclaiming Cunt,” a speech designed to take back the derogatory meaning of the controversial word. She was clear and fearless while performing, her intensity growing as she spoke each sentence. Her voice made you want to listen.

One of the most difficult monologues, performed by Nora Li, was called “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy.” It was the story of a former lawyer who found her calling as a sex worker in her late-30’s. Li was required to explain (and show) all the different types of moans the woman encountered in her work. Not only did Li give a committed performance, but the bravery required for that piece needs to be recognized.

“The Vagina Monologues” received a total of roughly 100 attendees, and all the proceeds towards the performance went to New Reach New Haven, an organization that helps homeless women and girls.