Vivacious. Awe-inspiring. Grotesque. Improper. Novel. Awkward. “The Vagina Monologues” has been called many things. People love it. People hate it. People don’t even know about it. As a result of the title’s embrace of the infamous “v-word,” many people avoid it. What about the word “vagina” makes us uncomfortable anyway? While exploring this question, the monologues also embrace the issues of gender norms and violence against women.
In 1996 Eve Ensler wrote “The Vagina Monologues” based on her interviews with hundreds of women. Her show was performed in the HERE Arts Center in New York City, the Off Broadway Westside Theater and even at Madison Square Garden. Both Melissa Etheridge and Whoopi Goldberg have performed in the show. Each year many college campuses perform “The Monologues” in order to call attention to women’s rights and encourage female empowerment.
This year Take Back the Night and GU Men Creating Change are sponsoring “The Vagina Monologues.” The show runs from Feb. 3 to Feb. 6 and the proceeds will be donated to the V-Day Spotlight Campaign and Courtney’s House. This year the V-Day Spotlight Campaign will create safe housing for Haitian women and girls as an answer to the increase in the number of sexual assaults in Haiti since the disastrous earthquake of 2010. Courtney’s House is a local charity that assists survivors of sex trafficking.
An underlying current of strength characterizes the poignant — and sometimes disturbing — monologues featured in the performance. “The Vagina Monologues” aims to bring its audience members out of their comfort zones. It succeeds. But although much of the play is shocking (to say the least), sensationalism is not the main focus. “‘The Vagina Monologues’ sheds light on women’s issues on a global scale,” said Elizabeth Seaman (COL `12), one of the directors.
Some groups, however, are opposed to Georgetown running the performance. People have labelled it as too racy, unnecessarily vulgar, explicit and sexually charged. Many conservative bloggers condemn Georgetown for promoting “The Vagina Monologues,” writing that the show undermines the Catholic values the University should seek to promote. The Cardinal Newman Society, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to help renew and strengthen Catholic identity in Catholic higher education,” criticizes Georgetown and other Catholic colleges and universities that perform the monologues. The Society asserts that Catholic schools that puts on the Monologues are Catholic “in name only “and do nothing to uphold Catholic beliefs.”
“[The Cardinal Newman Society] misses the mark in evaluating the meaning and purpose of ‘The Monologues’,” said Danielle LoVallo (SFS `11), a producer of the show. Director Vicki Handley (COL `11), however, understands where critics are coming from. “I think that every single person has the responsibility to interpret his or her religious tradition as they see fit,” she said, emphasizing that the Monologues are about innate human dignity, an important aspect of Catholicism.
So, purchase your ticket and visit the Devine Studio Theatre in the Davis Performing Arts Center to watch the drama unfold. And guys, this isn’t a show just for women. In fact, the GU Men Creating Change are ushering at the performances. “We encourage men to attend in large part because these are issues facing their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, wives and girlfriends,” Co-producer Kristen Cates (COL `11) said.
One phrase that cast members, directors and producers alike mentioned repeatedly was “fostering conversation.” In the words of Handley, “We don’t want the dialogue to be one-sided; I would like to hear from all genders on these issues.”