Students wait in anticipation, hungry for what will eventually turn out to be a humorous, personal and informative production. The Vagina Monologues emphasizes security with a topic inflated by misinformation, abuse and censorship for ages— the human body.
Held on March 29 from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Bonnie Auditorium at Radford University, The Vagina Monologues is a work that opens a discussion to humanity’s views and experiences, something all cultures could potentially benefit from.
After the audience finds seats in a small— yet suitably intimate theatre — one of the organizers introduces the play and the role it takes. Once finished, the room grows dark; you can almost smell the glee in the air.
All attention is fixed upon a projector that finally breaks into a video prompting students and performers alike to dance. This sets the tone for the event, a 90-minute piece that draws you into sometimes uncomfortable territory with care and whimsy.
“I was that squealing little girl hunched down in my seat hands over my face, like oh my god, did she say that,” Rachel Kidd a — Design Management senior and theatre performer at Radford University— said.
A reoccurring theme of this play is the embarrassment that people feel when the word vagina is mentioned. As a freshman at Radford, Kidd wasn’t able to say the word without blushing.
Even Kidd’s monologue The Flood —which physicalizes an elderly woman recounting experiences of orgasm from earlier years —made Kidd uncomfortable during her freshman year.
However, Rachel finds that performances like hers allow for people to overcome possible disgust over the topic. “It’s cool to talk to people that are in that place, and know that this show can help people move beyond that stereotype or that stigma behind the word vagina,” Kidd said.
Before the show began, the cast polled audience members about what they grew up calling their vaginas. Several people says that their parents never mentioned the subject, and only became familiar with what it was during menstruation at middle school.
One explanation for this is the culture that sometimes surrounds the South. Given the views of sex religious figures often express and the sheer number of Christians in the region, Kidd thinks there is a link between repressive perception and religion. “Growing up in the South is a lot like growing up in a Christian family,” Kidd said.
How the media actually portrays the human body affects how we perceive them, and is a by-product of norms defining what can and cannot be discussed. “You blush when you say the word vagina, but you can watch a rape scene in a movie and not flinch,” Kidd said.
Despite how inclusive the performance was, feelings of isolation and shock occurred in the audience.
“I’d say we felt a little scared,” Alex Harland —an audience member and friend of one of the performers — said. The number of female audience members contrasted with the male audience overwhelmed Harland. However, he recognizes the necessity of including a large number of female presences for educational purposes.
Miranda Roberts— cast member and IDHH major at Radford University — stated that the perception of feminism as a means of domination or “man hating” makes people wary of attending events such as The Vagina Monologues.
“The idea of feminism is about females being equal to men, and it’s not about man hate or anything like that,” Roberts said.
In the interest of responses, the play needed to be honest and passionate. Harland thinks it is a natural factor of topics concerning female genitalia. “I think to launch it when it first started it had to be very aggressive for people to actually take it seriously,” said Harland.
One reason why this play has continued to garner attention is for the way in which it reaches people of different backgrounds. My Vagina Was My Village —a piece dealing with women who’ve been subjected to rape camps in Bosnia— highlights this.
“Women who have experienced any type of sexual abuse or rape— regardless of where you are in the world or where it happened— can still relate to that piece,” Rachel said.
Speaking to the empathy these stories conjure, Rachel added, “ I think that is a really important to show is that these are real women’s stories and there all so different, but as a woman we can still relate to them … we can still feel what that woman was feeling.”
It is this element of humanity to these stories that creates care in audience members and donations to causes. Since the 2009 inclusion of The Vagina Monologues, it has raised over 6,000 dollars for the Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley.