Every vagina has a story

V-Day event advocates an end to abuse against women and girls

The Spectrum

If your vagina could talk, what two words would it say?

"Slow down," said 17 female cast members at high volume, dressed in black and red. With this statement, the audience in Norton 117 exploded into laughter that continued throughout Saturday night, as women throughout the Buffalo community performed their rendition of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues."

The play was the feature event of the V-Day campaign at UB and was hosted by Sub Board, Inc. Health Education. V-Day campaign's goal is to raise awareness of violence against women and children. The campaign started Feb. 14 and will continue until April 30, with events around North and South Campus.

Themes of the play included sexual exploits, tales of sexual awakening and the fears many women deal with on a regular basis. The play, comprised of 16 different monologues, centers on the vagina.

"Let's just start with the word 'vagina,' it sounds like an infection at best, or maybe even a medical instrument: 'Hurry nurse bring me ... the vagina,'" said Poovri Nair, a freshman anthropology major and Maddie Collins, a sophomore media studies and sociology major. Nair and Collins went on to describe the stigma of the word itself.

Nair and Collins, along with Ryleigh Swiatowy, a senior global studies major, provided an introduction to and history of the play. "The Vagina Monologues" was the result of dozens of interviews conducted by Ensler with women around the world on the topics of sexuality and violence. The original production ran in 1996 and in '98, Ensler helped launch the global V-Day campaign.

Each of the play's monologues is titled for the story it told. Many of these stories were based in comedy. Although the Norton Theater was not full to capacity, laughter reverberated through the room as each woman described their antidotes to stigmas and trials attached to having a vagina.

All things vagina were praised throughout the play as statistics were placed among the anecdotes and narratives. In "Vagina Happy Fact," Ruoxi Zhang explained that the clitoris "is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure." The organ has 8,000 nerve endings, twice the concentration of fibers that is in the penis.

"Who needs a handgun when you've got a semi-automatic?" Zhang said.

Bryanna Young, a freshman pharmacy major, lamented the most hated experience in vaginal maintenance - the gynecologist appointment - during the monologue "My Angry Vagina." The crowd chortled along with insightful descriptions of trips to the gynecologist's office.

After the performance's conclusion, Young explained that the relevancy of "The Vagina Monologues" is one of her favorite aspects of the play. "Every [monologue] is open for interpretation," Young said. "You find a bit of yourself in each girl, and you can't find that anywhere else."

Not all of the monologues in the play were comedic. Horrifying stories of abuse and survival produced somber moments. In between a monologue about a man who loved to look at his lover's vagina and "My Angry Vagina," Rosalind Campbell took the stage to speak of genital mutilation in "Not-So-Happy Fact."

Female genital mutilation has been inflicted on approximately 130 million girls and young women, according to UNICEF's 2005 report on female genital mutilation and cutting.

Campbell cited this study and said "about 3 million young girls a year can expect the knife, or razor, or a glass shard, to cut their clitoris or remove it altogether."

After sharing these statistics with the audience, silence followed Campbell as she took her place among the fellow actresses.

Campbell explained after the show that the purpose of these performances is to get people to think about violence in the world.

"Violence against women and children is real, and it needs to stop," Campbell said. "That's the reason for ["The Vagina Monologues"] and that's what I believe in."

The message of the real brutality women face around the world was continued in "My Vagina Was My Village," performed by Beata Skonecki, a masters of social work intern at SBI. She spoke of a Bosnian girl who was the victim of systemic rape used as a method of warfare.

The girl used to think of her vagina as a place filled with "water, soft, pink fields." Then her "village" was destroyed when "six of them, monstrous doctors with black masks, shov[ed] bottles up [her vagina] ... there were sticks and the end of the broom."

The stories of abuse overwhelmed the audience at times, but through the renditions, audience seemed to feel the message of hope and survival that punctuated each performance.

The play ended with the "One Billion Will Rise for Justice" segment, in which anyone who has been a victim of abuse, or who wished to actively stop violence were asked to stand in solidarity against the abuse perpetrated against women and young girls.

This moment stood out most for Sabila Shah, a graduate student working on her doctorate in nursing. Everyone standing in Norton showed that "violence is not something to be ashamed of because there are people that have gone through the same thing," Shah said. "You don't have to hide and you're not alone."

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