There are two things people who plan on watching the Vagina Monologues and HerStories at UCSD should know: one, prepare to hear the word “vagina” more than you would even if you worked in a gynecologist’s office and two, relax.
As a cast member, I can assure you that other people in the audience are just like you, completely unaware of all the ruckus that vaginas cause. This is probably not because you actively chose to be uninformed or hate discussing an “obscene” word such as “vagina.” This is most likely due to the fact that most people were not educated on what vaginas do or how they work. In words straight from the production: “I bet you’re worried. I was worried. I was worried about vaginas. I was worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them.”
This year, 2017, marks the 18th annual production of the Vagina Monologues at UCSD. The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Tony Award-winning playwright, performer, and activist Eve Ensler, as an attempt to challenge the silence around women’s issues. It has opened the eyes of millions and sparked conversations in homes when it seemed like the matches were all spoiled.
After some viewers questioned the relevance the twenty year old piece had, the directors decided to shake things up.
Enter HerStories, five original monologues written by UCSD students based on their own experiences. “Even if you’ve seen the show in past years, it’s never the same,” says Miranda Barron, director of relations.
The directors hope that these audacious new pieces will bring the Vagina Monologues into the present, so that the show can grow with the new waves of feminism by addressing issues left out from the original play:
- “It Happens Once a Month” by Rachel Sebastian questions the taboo nature of periods and the need to open up the flow of conversation.
- “The Rape Test,” an anonymous piece, addresses rape culture and the importance of mindful word usage, especially when the words hint to traumatic experiences peers might have had.
- “What I’m Told, What I Tell” by Haley Church discusses how the patriarchy limits the independence of women.
- “Black Girl,” an anonymous piece, explains misogynoir, or misogyny directed toward black women, and its effect on the psyche of black women.
- “Knowing” by Quartz Clark redefines the way the word “knowing” applies to gender identity and life.
These five pieces are only one slice of the supreme pizza pie of the issues that affect cisgendered and transgendered women, women of color, women who fall in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and those who are genderqueer.
“We want to include everyone but there is only so much space and time to present a holistic view of our campus climate in relation to gender-based issues,” says Lizzie Hodgdon, director and production manager. “We hope this year we were able to achieve a level of nuanced representation we have not had before.”
The pieces are not the only new additions to the show. Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s work, this year’s backdrop tells the story of vaginas from different perspectives. Emily Butler, stage art director, explains, “The figures themselves I would say represent flowers (you can see a tulip, orchid, the red calla lily, a rose), although the squiggly-flowy lines also remind me of the lips of a vagina. There are a lot of browns, purples, reds and pinks that contribute to this.” When the lights go up, the illuminated backdrop shines, casting a warm glow onto all who grace the stage.
So, if you have reached this part of the article and you still do not quite “get it”, let Miranda Barron explain: “This show is about more than a theatrical experience. It is standing in solidarity with those who have experienced violence, donating to two incredible organizations that help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and refusing to accept these as normal life experiences. Because it’s not normal, it shouldn’t be. No one deserves to feel unsafe in their bodies and in their homes.”
If you were one of the few hundred people who were able to snag tickets to the last two sold out shows, congratulations! You’re in for a treat. If you were not able to, create an open line of dialogue with those who could. If you identify as a man and would like to stand in solidarity with those who identify as women, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming, join the MENding Monologues, coming to UCSD this spring.
Listen, learn, and, most importantly, love.
Amarachi Metu is an Arts and Entertainment writer for The Triton. She can be reached at email@example.com.