In honor of Women’s History Month, students come together to perform Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” every year at Radford University. This year the show was directed by Diane Montgomery, an adjunct professor of theater and Shakespeare at RU. The show is very popular, and once it got started, I could see why.
The performance opened with an introduction by Provost Sam Minner.
“I’ve worked on many campuses, but I’ve never experienced a Women’s History Month celebration like the one at Radford University,” he said, commenting on the collaboration of so many campus clubs coming together to celebrate.
Following the opening speech was an awkward, unnecessary 10-minute break for people to use the bathroom, check their cellphones (which we had just been told to turn off), etc. This is a mature play. I’m sure everyone in the audience was mature enough to know if they had to use the bathroom, go before the show.
Despite this rocky start, when the show got underway it was attention-grabbing. The play tells the stories of women who were interviewed about their vaginas. “No matter how many times you say it, it still sounds like a word you shouldn’t say,” said Bussy Gower, an actress in the show.
Vagina. She was right.
Some of the stories were sad, but most were humorous. Aside from solo monologues, the actors also performed in pieces together, answering questions about their vaginas.
“If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?”
Each actor responded multiple times with a series of hilarious comments, such as “a hat, something form-fitting, a tuxedo, jeans,” and “a shock-collar to ward off unwanted strangers.” That joke really got a laugh.
What I loved about the show, more than just the hilarious stories, was that they brought attention to real women’s issues that most people don’t even think about. Women are expected to be clean, trimmed, smooth, soft and primped for men to pay attention to them. One woman’s story told of how her husband forced her to shave ” … like a little girl. He loved it,” she said. Women are forced to compromise themselves to be presentable for men, that’s the way society has constructed us.
It’s unacceptable to see a girl who doesn’t shave her legs or underarms, despite the fact that the hair is completely natural (or we wouldn’t have it!). When was the last time you saw a significant female in your life leave the house without wearing make up or brushing her hair? Strict standards of beauty hold women to the idea that they must be beautiful to be liked, and this amount of pressure can be unbearable.
In one monologue, a 72-year-old woman describes her vagina as a cellar with a closed door; “we don’t go down there.” What is it that makes people so uncomfortable to talk about vaginas? This play slaps that question in the face and forces the audience to face it head-on. While I’m sure some of the monologues made people uncomfortable (for me it was the one about female genital mutilation), they all worked together to send a powerful message that anti-feminism will no longer be tolerated.
My favorite was “My Angry Vagina,” where the actor runs up on stage and shouts “My vagina’s angry!” Tampons, she says, are uncomfortable and unnatural, especially the scented ones. Commenting about the ways in which she is supposed to clean up and primp for a man, she says “My vagina doesn’t need to be cleaned up, it smells good already!” Why are women made to dress up something natural? Why is everyone afraid to see women happy and pleasured?
So, again I ask, what is it that makes people so uncomfortable to talk about vaginas? I can bet you’re even a little uncomfortable reading this right now. If you missed it this year and are even a little curious, I encourage you to look for “The Vagina Monologues” next year. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget. After all, “who needs a handgun when you have a semi-automatic?” one of the actors said, regarding how a clitoris has twice as many nerves in it as a penis. That statement (aside from being hilarious) is a powerful comment on distorted gender equality.