Made in Va-China

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The Spectrum

While America has been shouting about vaginas since 1998 over Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, China has only responded with a muffled groan. A culture of isolationism has paralyzed a country to remain quiet in a room where it seems only the West is yelling.
However, the groans seem to be getting louder.
On Monday, Sub-Board, Inc.'s V-Day Campaign to end violence against women and girls continued with the "Va-China Monologues." The documentary, The Vagina Monologues: Stories from China, was screened for an audience and tried to show how there are quite a large number of people in China trying to fight for the rights of the abused and abandoned females.
In Stories from China by Ai Xiaoming and Sufeng Song, a cast entirely of Chinese women is trying to break the barrier and express themselves in their rendition of The Vagina Monologues.
Over the past 10 years, there have been major steps towards gaining equality for women and girls. Kristin Stapleton, director of Asian Studies, partially attributes the change to the growing use of media.
"[The] university students who did [The Vagina Monologues] by themselves probably heard about it through some sort of media," Stapleton said.
Although the Chinese government tries very hard to limit what information is exposed to the public, not all of the facts remain hidden.
"There are huge tugs of war in China over information," said Stapleton.
Chinese women are being exposed to new thoughts and ideas that haven't been traditionally discussed for many generations.
However, the path of a changing attitude in Chinese culture hasn't been without a few speed bumps.
Many of the cast members are comfortable performing what it means to be a woman to them on stage, but a few were unable to tell their family that they were involved for the fear they would be disowned.
In addition to being unable to tell family members in some cases, there were also problems in attempting to show their performance to the public. In one instance, the show had to be cancelled at a Chinese gallery because of the content.
Regardless of content, anything can be performed in a gallery, according to Chinese law. However, Stapleton says the Chinese government tends to leave laws vague and open to interpretation to allow for some wiggle room.
"People with power can get away with a lot," Stapleton said. "But the Internet has helped balance things."
"Power" can mean everything from financial success to physical force. One story explained how a businessman walked into a massage parlor and expected something extra from a young girl giving him the massage. She was stabbed when she refused him and was sent to jail while the man walked away.
Eventually, she would be set free partly because of a large amount of support from people on the Internet, but these sorts of issues illustrate problems that the country is still having.
"The officials [in China] are very conservative," Stapleton said. "They really just want to avoid trouble."
However, avoiding trouble comes with a cost, especially because many women live in the fear of abusive relationships that are far too common in China.
Whether it is the story of a wife who is now sitting in death row for killing her husband in self-defense or of a baby girl being left to die because she isn't a boy, the price for turning a blind eye is female lives around the country.
The final problem that many performers of Stories from China discussed was the stigma associated with sex. To many traditional Chinese people, sex is seen as a dirty act, especially when talked about by women.
The Monologues being performed in China are trying to eliminate that negative association and help restore a culture that isn't ashamed of their bodies.
"[Throughout] Chinese history, there is actually a ton of talk about sexual pleasure," said Stapleton.
SBI is holding its own rendition of The Vagina Monologues this upcoming Sunday and Monday in the Student Union Theater, in addition to many other events and films to promote the V-Day Campaign.
The Vagina Monologues will be at 1 p.m. on Sunday and 7 p.m. on both nights. More information can be found at www.subboard.com.

E-mail: features@ubspectrum.com