If you walked past the Student Center last week, you surely heard the occasional “VAGINA” thrown at you. For most of you who have been on campus for a couple of years, this phenomenon was no big surprise — you knew that it meant the “Vagina Monologues” were being performed once more. For everyone else who had probably never even heard the word yelled so loudly in public before, it was a bit of a shock. Yet the “Vagina Monologues” are not meant to shock, but rather to inform and empower.
First, a bit of history: “The Monologues” were composed from a series of interviews conducted over many years with various populations and demographics. Each year, a new monologue that applies to current issues of that year is added to the collection. At UC Irvine we do not do the entire play, but rather the directors and producer pick out several monologues, which they find important and wish to express to the UCI community. Thus, each year is a different performance. Some monologues are composed of one person, while there are a few which use two or three people from the cast — and still some that make use of the entire cast of 40 actresses.
In a pleasant execution, the entire show was performed rather informally. Instead of being severely somber or critical, it was held in a very light and down to earth environment. When I entered the lecture hall, music was playing, the cast and crew were talking, laughing and taking pictures, and I was not frowned upon for going up to the stage to talk to the actresses and look at the props. Additionally, it was a very low maintenance set. Overly flashy designs or props do not distract you, allowing for the message of the monologues to really shine through.
“The Monologues” are written in such a way that they make you as an audience member reevaluate how society portrays female genitalia. Yet there is no direct preaching, and instead, the play consists of a collection of different stories from real women, which makes you independently realize how much society has censored the vagina and what it stands for. Issues brought up in “The Monologues” ranged from how a vagina looks, what a vagina did, what people have done to vaginas, and, more importantly, what women thought of their vaginas. It felt like a play by women, featuring women, meant to inform and educate the audience about the dreaded and unspoken “vagina.”
However, the show is not without its faults. Since the cast is made up of students from all across campus, the acting was not always phenomenal. There were times when things went wrong and actors forgot their lines. There were also moments, such as when the audience was encouraged to chant the word “cunt” as an exercise to reclaim the word, and several audience members felt uncomfortable.
Yet probably the most troubling part of “The Monologues,” at least this year, was that the message at the end did not seem to readily connect with what the monologues throughout the show had been about. Instead of a final message about domestic abuse and “the billions rising to end it,” which was the apparent theme this year, what I got from the monologues was a lesson in how the vagina is shamed into ignorance. Don’t get me wrong, both messages are important and both are real and prevalent, but the connection was sort of lost on me.
However, though I didn’t get the final message, I still feel like I got something very important from it. I learned that the vagina is a thing that has been ignored and shamed for too long. It has been kept in the dark and has been used by people for all the wrong reasons.
It’s not just genitalia used for sex, but instead something that women, and even some men, can find refuge in and identify with. It has been abused, the apparent cause of this abuse being the ignorance and bizarre fear of the vagina. But probably the most important thing I got from “The Monologues” is that the vagina is not something that should be a whisper in the dark. It should be shouted from places like Ring Road, worn like a badge, and a source of pride.