“The Vagina Monologues” is not a play simply meant for women to get excited about their plumbing. It is a play that explains what it means to identify as a female in a modern world. This is a world of inequalities. A world in which women are labeled as “sluts” for the clothes that they wear. A world in which over 60% of girls have never had an orgasm, having been taught to focus on the pleasure of men.
Despite a rather sturdy script by Eve Ensler, “The Vagina Monologues” begins with a troubling — and misleading — opening scene, which endeavors to shock the audience by having a group of women stand onstage and profess their love for their vaginas. While this might have been eye opening in the 1990’s (when they play was originally performed), this is the generation of ‘The Penis Game.’ Today, the stigma around sexual profanity just isn’t the same. As a result of this brief exchange, critics often comment on the play’s excessive — and at times even inauthentic — enthusiasm about vaginas. In an effort to surprise, the opening scene nearly promulgates the stereotype that young women focus on seemingly trivial topics — as if vaginas are simply another new fad that they just “love” to talk about.
After this rocky start, however, “The Vagina Monologues” takes off. The first monologue is about the simple, yet crucial topic of “hair” and, of course, “hair down there.” While it is initially lighthearted – discussing the absurdity of deciding whether or not to shave between one’s legs – the speaker eventually explores the pressure and tension that can enter relationships regarding such an innocuous thing as public hair. Regardless of the topic, each monologue aims to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly — and each monologue does so to great success.
Ensler originally conceived the script so that almost anyone could make the roles relatable, regardless of background or gender — and the cast does wonders with her writings. Olivia Homer ‘18, for instance, who plays an old woman in a monologue entitled “The Flood” adopts a Yiddish accent, adding humor and depth to her character. Similarly, Priscilla Nicole ‘16 gives a surprisingly refreshing performance of “My Vagina is Angry,” listing all of the problems with gynecological exam rooms. What works about “The Vagina Monologues” is the fact that although these aren’t the actual words of the actresses, as performed, they feel as though they could be.
While the various monologues chosen vary with every production, this year’s production had an excellent balance of those dealing with both the positive and negative experiences of women. “The Vagina Monologues” gets to the root of the most stunningly beautiful aspects that come with being a woman; exploring what it means to give birth, masturbate and feel sexy in your own skin. Simultaneously, those who believe that we live in a post-gender world, “The Vagina Monologues” is a wakeup call. The monologues do not shy away from reality, relating experiences of rape, female genital mutilation, and sexual assault. The unity between these two extremes manifests itself in the production. Sitting in a V-Shape onstage behind the speaker, the women become a unit, encompassing both the hardships and joys of being a female.
While most theatrical productions try to distance themselves from dealing directly with social issues, “The Vagina Monologues” is certainly a prime example of the benefit of the opposite. Ensler’s play is the main Valentine’s Day production at Stanford (the show is now in its eighth year) and all proceeds are to be donated to organizations that prevent violence and sexual abuse against women. For anyone who loves women or has experienced what it means to have a vagina, “The Vagina Monologues” is a way to stand united for sexual revolution and equality.
Contact Olivia Wittting at owitting ‘at’ stanford.edu.