Although it may have been virtual, the QU Monologues discussion on Sept. 15, hosted by the Multicultural Student Leadership Council, was a safe space nonetheless.
The event was held as a way to encourage discussion about issues that may seem controversial or delicate such as body image, sexual harassment and safety on campus. The QU Monologues encouraged conversation between the students following small presentations by the event hosts.
The event covered controversial topics through video essays much like the Vagina Monologues, a series of spoken essays created in 1996 by Eve Enslerto.
“We wanted to make it more of an inclusive event (than the Vagina Monologues), not limited, so we changed it to the QU Monologues,” said Athena Cuttle, senior psychology major and Gender and Sexuality Alliance interim president.
For each of the major topics of the night, MSLC followed the style of the Vagina Monologues and played audio that illustrated a dark scene based on the trauma that social pressure can create. The clips got darker as the event progressed, emulating a provocative style that elicits emotions.
“Dear Anna, the truth is I would never speak to a child the way I speak to myself, I would never tell a 4-year-old that she is fat. That no one will love her,” one clip said. “There’s nothing empowering about lessening yourself. You’re a vanishing act. Your body, the magic hat pulling out nothing. Your body is a clothing rack. Your body is my favorite sweater.”
This led the participants to discuss their own experiences with body image and conforming to society. One female student spoke about their roommate’s struggle with staying thin and refusing to eat for days in order to prevent gaining weight.
Others discussed how they’ve been profiled in the past, largely due to how they chose to express themselves. One student spoke about how their tattoos caused a store full of mostly elderly people nervous because the tattoos made them seem “less professional.”
Another student talked about how their hair didn’t conform to “Western standards,” and how it made even their own family tell them that they wouldn’t get a job.
The students also discussed safety on campus now that Public Safety laid off many of its diverse officers. Participants believe that some students may feel that they have no one to turn to. Some students opened up and spoke about their concerns about the loss of representation, and how that could affect their own safety.
The QU Monologues also addressed sexual harassment through another audio essay, narrated by Patrina Robinson, a sophomore entrepreneurship major and community outreach chair for the Black Student Union.
Robinson’s piece, “Red Traffic Light,” describes the horror of an unwanted sexual encounter, and the fear and misplaced guilt that can come with it.
“‘The Red Traffic Light’ is a story about a young woman who was confident in her ability to say no before someone taught her that just because you say stop doesn’t mean someone will stop,” Robinson said. “Like a stoplight, people give consent by saying go, slow down, or stop. In the poem, she is a stoplight, and the sad reality is that drivers don’t always stop when the light is red.”
Robinson wrote the piece after a personal incident earlier in her life. The experience left her deeply depressed. She hoped to find some relief in writing “The Red Traffic Light.” Robinson wrote from the point of view of a survivor, to show how quickly an assault can escalate.
“I live beneath the stop light that says go when the time’s right. Slow down this doesn’t feel right,” Robinson wrote in her poem. “You run through the stop light. Don’t feel her pain, just urges. Need what is so bad. You become colorblind. Deaf to the sirens. Stop, stop. If you can.”
After she finished reading, a deeper silence than that of typical Zoom conferences was felt, one that no one knew how to break. The weight of the piece seemed to sit on the participants’ shoulders, leaving them in silence.
Through the poem, Robinson wanted to show people that it is never OK for anyone to “not stop” when they are asked to do so.
“I want readers to understand that just because a person likes you and you like them does not mean they have any right to make you do something you don’t want to,” Robinson said. “It does not matter how far you have gone, it does not matter if you wanted to or will want to at some point, it does not matter if you like how something feels, and it does not matter what you have previously consented to. You always have the right to say no.”
Despite the progress and the unfiltered conversations at the QU Monologues, the organizers of the event said that it’s not the end of the discussion.
“This conversation needs to continue into the future, not just having an event (and) it’s over and done with,” said Andrew DePass, a senior biology and computer science double major and executive chair of MSLC. We still need to discuss issues of body image and consent that unfortunately affect women and well, all people, but most importantly, women and folks of LGBTQ+ backgrounds.”