Colgate Students Enbrace “The Vagina Monologues”

Gordon Higgins

Vagina. Snatch. Love Box. Furry Dug-Out. No matter what you call it, it matters. This was the message at the fifth staging of The Vagina Monologues, put on by the Women’s Studies Department last Thursday and Friday. Its name alone seemed to draw men and women together at the Palace Theater in an evening dedicated to women’s issues as seen from the point of view of their vaginas. The Vagina Monologues consist of 32 short monologues written by playwright and feminist Eve Ensler. Ensler interviewed over 200 women about their memories, fears and fantasies regarding their sexuality. From these interviews, the plays have evolved into a witty, irreverent, sincere and compassionate look at female sexuality. The Vagina Monologues started out in the basement of the Cornelia Caf?e in New York in 1996 and has evolved into a phenomenon. It has been translated into 24 languages and has been broadcasted on HBO, performed on Broadway and acted out on college campuses worldwide. The Vagina Monologues has become a source of inspiration for a new generation of empowered women who see it as a chance to spread knowledge about issues related to female sexuality and to teach women, as Ensler explains, “to live in their vaginas.”Ensler is known for being at the forefront of the contemporary women’s rights movements. Ensler, who claims to have been an activist her entire life, has devoted her life to stopping violence against women. Growing up in a particularly brutal household influenced her career path. In particular, she has taken interest in women who have been victims of rape, incest and other sexual violations and has used them as the impetus for creating the monologues. It began as a few interviews with friends of Ensler on the subject. However, as more women found out about how great it felt to talk about their sexuality and their vaginas, her network grew until she had interviewed over 200 women.The success of the monologue’s message has sponsored a movement called V-Day. Its mission is to raise money and consciousness about women’s issues and to provide a network for support and legislation regarding the abuse of women. The V in V-Day stands for vagina, victory and Valentines, the official V-Day celebration being on February 14.”The V-Day College Campaign allows schools to use the [monologue] script for free, as long as they adhere to some pretty strict guidelines about when, where and how the show can be staged. More colleges and universities are staging productions every year,” Heather Angstrom ’05 said.This year’s V-Day celebrations featured the issue of Japanese “comfort women.” These were women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese imperial army after the Second World War. The women were of varying ethnicities, nationalities and social standings (but are thought to have been primarily Korean), and were forced to have sex with Japanese troops. They were often subject to violent beatings and forced abortions, and suffered from malnourishment and sexually transmitted diseases. The Japanese saw this as a way of improving troop morale and decreasing widespread sexual abuse in occupied territories in the wake of the Nanjing massacre. To this day the Japanese government has yet to accept blame or even acknowledge these atrocities. This was highlighted by a special monologue called “Say It” in which a survivor implores the Japanese government to acknowledge the issue and apologize.The Vagina Monologues ran at Colgate last Thursday and Friday. The night started with “clittails,” brownies, donuts, chocolates and drinks courtesy of the women of Sisters of the Round Table (SORT). Amnesty International solicited signatures for petitions and distributed information on women’s sex abuse. In addition, the Sexual Resource Group handed out information on resources for sexually active people on campus. The first monologue introduced the audience to the many names women have for vaginas. The monologues went on to deal with issues about vaginal comfort, personifying it, giving it a voice and letting you know what it likes and what it does not like.”I had more fun than I probably should have, working with the cast of The Vagina Monologues,” senior performer of “Short Skirt” Sylvia Smith said. “This is one of the most diverse groups of women I’ve ever worked with. The Vagina Monologues create an environment for both the cast and audience where it is safe to discuss, laugh and learn about a social taboo, namely vaginas.”Gordon provided a voice to “The Flood,” a monologue about an old woman who neglected her vagina. First-year Allie Geiger performed a monologue about her “Angry Vagina,” complaining about the many trials of being a vagina, from cold elephant ears to thong underwear. Sophomore Nzinga Job, whose dramatic presentation of “My Vagina Was a Village” gave voice to a piece Ensler wrote for the many women who were systematically raped in Bosnia in the 90’s, states, “There is something between my legs. I do not know what it is. I do not know where it is. I do not touch. Not now. Not anymore. Not since … Not since the soldiers put a long thick rifle inside me. So cold, the steel rod canceling my heart…” Senior Kowo Kesselly gave a performance of “Say It.” “It was quite a moving experience,” Job said. “It has inspired me to write and direct the Penis Dialogues/Dick Rap with Urban Theater next semester.” The Vagina Monologues were directed by sophomores Abigail Flores, Sudrey Stevens, Jina Chung, Liddy Kang Covington and Ericka Scuadroni and first-year Mayra Gamez. In previous years the show had been held at the Edge, but this year it moved to the Palace. The Department of Women’s Studies was able to raise over $1,000; 10 percent of this will go to organizations involved with this year’s V-Day spotlight, and the rest will go to Vera House in Syracuse, a rape crisis center and emergency shelter for women.