The production of The Vagina Monologues has brought the Gender Studies Club and UVSC plenty of controversy over the past 5 years.
From advertisements simply being ripped from walls and bulletin boards to complete omission of the word vagina from a College Times article in 2006, every year there seems to be some negative feedback about the play. Just two years ago, the Monologues were listed as a reason to delay construction on the library, due to threatened funding.
Carmell Hoopes-Clark, who is producing the play again this year, said, "We need to ask "Why?" when our play posters get anonymously pulled off of bulletin boards, or people turn and run from anything with the word vagina in it. What are people so afraid of?"
The answer does not seem to be that people are afraid to acknowledge violence toward women, as is prominently portrayed in Eve Ensler’s work.
No, it seems that people are more upset about the positive aspects of the play. Monologues that candidly take on the subjects of smell, hair or menstruation give an unashamed voice to topics that have long been the subject of culture-wide denigration and rude jokes.
The Vagina Monologues not only turns the light on to the very real horrors of violence toward women and girls, it also speaks of the whispered subjects of the female life. Periods, tampons, sex, women hating or fearing their vaginas, even the C-word are laid open to us. I asked a reporter last year if she would want her mother or grandmother to go through her entire life without experiencing an orgasm. She gave a resounding "no!"
But too many women do exactly this, and why? Because it was simply culturally unacceptable to talk about these subjects – until Eve Ensler, and until this play.
One out of every six women has been a victim of attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Currently in the U.S., 17.1 million women have been victims of these crimes. With these numbers, why do some feel it so crucial to dismiss The Vagina Monologues from UVSC? Are they too liberal – too vulgar?
Ending violence is not just a matter of the absence of rape or molestation. Here is where people in our valley tend to get a bit uncomfortable. Ending violence also means celebrating women’s pleasure. We can’t stop violence simply by increasing social, legal, and punitive intolerance toward rape. Our whole way of thinking must change. From our current society where rape has become so commonplace that we accept it as a part of our culture, we must change into a society in which we celebrate the beauty and pleasure of human existence.
This is why Ensler’s groundbreaking work stuns us, thrills us, or makes us uncomfortable. We are used to silently accepting violence toward women and girls in our society, even here in happy valley. But in spite of the silence, the discouragement and the road-blocks, UVSC’s performances of The Vagina Monologues have continued the work to stop violence against women and girls.
Yes, The Vagina Monologues go hand-in-hand with controversy. But domestic violence and sexual assault cannot continue to be ignored. Isn’t this more controversial? And we’re not in this alone; this play, one that has been translated into over 24 different languages, brings an entire auditorium standing together in one promise: to fight to end violence against females.
And in refusing to ignore this violence, let’s face what really makes us uncomfortable: women having the right to their pleasure. Cultural encouragement and support to celebrate women’s pleasure, women’s mystery and women’s desires is an act against violence.