‘Vagina Monologues’ celebrates female sexuality

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Author: Stephen Nemeth

 

The audience could see the silhouettes of ten people through the darkness of Thorne Hall.

The spotlight shone on one as she yelled, “My vagina is angry!”

Emma Cones (junior) exclaimed to a nearly packed Thorne auditorium that her vagina was not for other people to poke around in, clean or torture. Instead, she told everyone just how her vagina wanted to be treated.

“Vaginas are supposed to be loose and wide, not held together,” she explained.

Friday night, the cast of “Vagina Monologues” presented to its audience a wide range of experiences centered on sexuality. Ten women took the stage, each celebrating and critiquing the experiences of womanhood.

The show was comprised of a selection of monologues from Eve Ensler’s original 1996 play as well as original works written by members of the cast. The cast altered each piece to make it more relatable to the person performing it, according to cast member Lani Cupo (sophomore).

“I think that for women and people who identify as women or have a vagina, it’s a really empowering time to go and see other people talk about it and be more comfortable with the idea of female sexuality — also just identity in general,” Cupo said.

Nguhi Muturi (junior) delivered the second monologue with the soft and innocent voice of a young girl growing up with her “coochie.” In character as an actual pre-adolescent interviewed for Ensler’s original monologues, Muturi described experiences like being punched in the vagina at age 5, impaling her vagina on a bedpost at age 9 and being raped at age 10.

“My coochie is a very bad place,” she said. “A bad luck zone.”

In many of the pieces, the “coochie” was a bad place, disfigured by trauma and held back by the language of shame foisted upon it by society. For some women, it never got better. Others would come to terms with their negative experiences. In Muturi’s piece, the young girl would come to terms with hers; she would reclaim it.

Ana Vargas (senior) wrote and performed an original monologue. In her piece, she explained how her mother actively attributed injustices she endured to her struggle to learn the English language. And with a challenge to several departments and students on campus, Vargas called out those who promoted these injustices.

“Do you know what it is like to have a nation laugh when you speak?” Vargas said. The room went silent, but she continued on.

At three times during the performance, women walked to the front of the stage in groups to perform original spoken word poems. Three students came to the front to present the first, “Bitch Does Not Belong to You,” in which they described the misogynistic, convenient overuse of the word “bitch”.

In quick succession the three women yelled out to the crowd, “My voice does not belong to you! My body does not belong to you! Bitch does not belong to you!”

One of the other group pieces, “Dear Black Girls” — written by Cones, Muturi and Nina Monet Reynoso (senior) — spoke to the authors’ experiences as Black women.

Oversexualized before elementary school, they painted a vivid picture of the restrictions, limitations and expectations placed upon Black young women.

“Don’t let a single person project their ideas on who or what you should be,” Muturi said. “Dear precious Black woman, you are whatever your Blackness needs to be,” Reynoso added.

According to the organizers, the pieces are meant to bring to light the experiences of people who identify as female all over the world, not merely the speaker of a given piece.

“That is why we don’t memorize our monologues, because it’s not just supposed to be the person who’s presenting it, it’s supposed to represent a lot more than just that one person,” Margot Simon (senior), the president of “Vagina Monologues”, said.

The show resumed after intermission with Carolina Arenas (first year) giving a striking monologue entitled “Say It,” dedicated to Asian comfort women of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Sometimes breaking into a yell, Arenas gave voice to those women who, in their own words, became “ruined,” “exiled” and “silenced.”

Cupo read a monologue from Ensler’s play from the perspective of a 72-year-old woman who, in her youth, had an unexpected and embarrassing experience with an orgasm, or as she called it, “the flood,” while kissing a man. She had given up on relationships because she did not trust her “down-theres” anymore.

When the interviewer in Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” asked the woman what her vagina would wear, she responded, “It would wear a big sign, ‘closed due to flooding.’”

“I think Oxy has done a good job of making it inclusive, but historically ‘Vagina Monologues’ hasn’t been very inclusive,” Muturi said. “Even the name “’Vagina Monologues’ sort of emphasizes this tie between women and vaginas and was pretty much all white women doing the [original 1996] show. So historically the show I think was sort of centered on white feminism and we’ve taken active steps to make it more inclusive of maybe not the traditional face of feminism and women’s issues, and to include that in our show and our pieces.”

In particular, two of the pieces read at the end, not from Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” gave credence to Muturi’s claim that they are attempting to bring more voices to their show.

“This Is What Queer Looks Like,” adapted by Emily Gao* (first year) from a piece written by a different student last year, called out patriarchal heteronormative systems of oppression that sexualize Gao’s race and bisexuality.

With determination in her voice, Gao said, “My sexuality is not yours to feast on, to abuse or to fuck with.”

Shortly thereafter, Reynoso gave the audience another look into gender and sexuality by performing a piece from the point of view of a transgender man. By recounting the experience of having a girlfriend, who thought Reynoso’s character was “The Best Boyfriend,” the narrative unfolded into a stunning and disastrous tale of rejection.

“The world sees me as the gender I’m not,” Reynoso said, downcast from the perspective of her character.

To close the show, Audrey Shawley (sophomore) read “Period Poem.” With the audience enthralled, Shawley made a call for women to fight back and accept their vaginas, their sexualities and everything that is regularly dismissed or looked down upon:

“Just bleed. Spill your impossible scripture … Bleed on everything he loves.”

*Gao is a Weekly staff member.

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