The Vagina Monologues brings empowerment, unity and vaginal confidence to UB
Play offers light-hearted approach to combating violence against women
Before the lights dimmed in the Student Union Theater on Thursday, a projector looped a video on a giant white screen asking women: “What would your vagina say if it could talk? … What would it wear?”
Then three women took to the stage and contorted themselves with spread knees and arched backs while talking about the difficulties of “checking out their vaginas.” When they were done twisting their bodies, they stated over three dozen euphemisms for “vagina” which included, but were not limited to: “poonani, coochie, nappy dugout, vulva, monkey box, pussycat,” and an array of other less familiar terms.
The Vagina Monologues came to UB this weekend.
The award-winning play’s performance ran from April 23-25 in the Student Union Theater, presented by V-Day at UB 2015, with proceeds benefitting the national V-Day campaign that aims to end violence against women.
The Vagina Monologues is a play by Eve Ensler – who helped create the V-Day movement in 1998 – based on interviews she conducted with over 200 women to discuss sex, relationships and violence against women.
V-Day at UB runs from Feb. 14-April 30 and presents The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works to raise funds and awareness for violence against women.
The individual stories covered a plethora of themes including orgasms, love, beauty, acceptance of sexual orientation and form-fitting clothes. Some monologues made the audience burst with laughter while others were more emotional.
Ashley Maracle, UB alumna and co-director of the play, has been involved with The Vagina Monologues for the past five years. She said she understands that the show may not be very appealing to a broad audience.
“The show sounds intimidating, or like [students] wouldn’t be interested in it, but I would encourage them to come out and give it a try,” Maracle said.
She said she believes the play is successful because of its comedic touch. It discusses sensitives topics in a funny, non-threatening and non-blaming way, she said.
Audience member Amanda Valentini, a junior health and human services major, didn’t know much about the play but saw the advertisements around campus. She was excited to see “the messages sent out passionately by the actors.”
“They’re in the right direction with all of the educational groups to prevent violence against others,” Valentini said.
Some acts had one woman recite a story and others had multiple actresses discussing a specific theme.
Maracle recited one story describing the abuse and rape of a 10-year-old girl who grew up to fall in love with a woman that made her feel beautiful. The anecdote was both devastating and inspiring for the audience.
The shortest monologue was a simple statistic: Over three million girls in Africa suffer from forced female circumcision each year. Female circumcision is genital mutilation where a woman’s clitoris is cut off.
“You know the cliche of ‘first world problems,’ but after you read about what’s being done elsewhere, you’re like, ‘I have nothing to complain about,’” said Jane Fischer, director of Sub Board I Inc. (SBI) Health Education. “The conditions that women face globally … reading about what they’re enduring, what they’ve overcome and what’s being done to serve them is mind-boggling.”
Fischer is the producer of the V-Day campaign at UB and oversees the financial sponsorship of the program. She and her coworkers organized the V-Day events such as a human trafficking panel, V-Day Zumba and an open mic night scheduled for April 30 in Harriman Hall at 7 p.m.
“The Vagina Monologues and V-Day lends a voice to the women even Ensler interviewed,” Fischer said. “When these words are brought to life, it also helps the women in the show, the women in the audience and even the men in the audience find their own voice too.”
The Vagina Monologues first came to Buffalo in the late ’90s, and after being discontinued for a few years, was revived in 2009 due to student interest in the V-Day movement. SBI Health Education has been the host organization and sponsor for the V-Day campaign from then on.
Graduate students Anyango Kamina and Isha Sethi said they absolutely loved the performance. Kamina has seen the performance before elsewhere and was excited to see UB’s rendition.
“There were so many perspectives that were brought up through different issues that women have and it was beautiful,” Kamina said. “I loved the parts where they discussed older women because you realized that they weren’t able to talk about these topics when they were growing up. It shows that this problem is generational.”
Sethi hadn’t seen the play before but said she was glad that she went. The most exciting part for her was the openness of the stories.
“I was thinking, ‘Hey, why the hell haven’t we done this before?’” Sethi said. “There shouldn’t be any guilt associated with being a woman.”
Maracle said The Vagina Monologues has taught her the ability to unite with women for support and has helped her overcome many of her own fears and insecurities.
“V-Day, for me, is an opportunity for women to come together and share their experiences – there’s not a lot of recognized space for that,” Maracle said. “I also think it’s an opportunity to show their solidarity and power, and you don’t see that.”
As the end of the V-Day at UB 2015 campaign approaches, both Maracle and Fischer want to deliver the message that anyone can make a difference. Maracle said that she understands that it takes more than one person to make a difference, but maintains hope.
“No problem is too big, anyone can do something,” Fischer said with a smile. “Coming to the show, volunteering, reading a book, taking a class, educating yourself, anything you do helps.”
Maracle said she said she is eager to continue opposing violence against women.
“We can’t let the message die when the show dies,” Maracle said.
Bobby McIntosh is an assistant features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org