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The Vagina Monologues returns to the local stage
Controversial play to benefit the Center for Nonviolence
By Gloria Diaz
Fort Wayne Reader
Vagina. In recent years, the word has been ďOprahfiedĒ to Vajayjay, a term I find way too coy, and just outright annoying. Iím not saying that penis doesnít get its share of synonyms, both funny and disgusting, but so does the vagina. Can we just call it a vagina? Please?
Eve Ensler did. She wrote The Vagina Monologues in the mid-1990s, and productions of it have raised over $100 million for groups working to end violence against women. Every year, there is a new monologue written on a current topic facing women.
The play is a series of monologues written by Ensler after she talked to women about their own sexual experiences, and when they first got their periods. Some of the content has angered both feminists AND social conservatives.
Tackling a local production at IPFW is Joel Thomas Miller, who is co-directing the play with Rae Surface. Miller answered some questions via email about the production.
Diaz: If people have not seen this play, but want to attend, how would you describe The Vagina Monologues to them?
Miller: Aside from a few scenes, The Vagina Monologues is a docudrama. This means that the actors are performing monologues based on interviews Eve Ensler conducted with women of differing ages, ethnicities, nationalities, and experiences. Audience members can expect an evening of emotional highs and lows. Some of the scenes are funny, some are heart-breaking, and some are downright beautiful.
Diaz: If people want to bring their children, how old do you suggest the children be?
Miller: The Vagina Monologues does contain adult language and frank discussion of topics that some parents may be uncomfortable with. Topics include female genital mutilation, rape, queer sexuality, transgender, and sex work. Iíd suggest that teenagers be allowed to see this show, though, again, the material is pretty heavy.
My hope, though, is that parents donít prevent their children from seeing this show because of the mentions of vaginas themselves. Thatís one reason this show is so important: I believe we need to demystify the female body in pop culture.
Diaz: Women seem to be over sexualized in the media, yet when women talk about their own sexual experiences, thereís a different reaction, because people donít seem to want to hear about it. Do you see that as a sort of societal ďwomen should be seen scantily clad and not heardĒ belief?
Miller: In my opinion, it has more to do with how we interact with storytelling in our culture. Thereís a level of removal for us in depictions of sexualized women in movies, TV shows, music videos, etc. Many times, women in these modes of storytelling arenít given identifying characteristics which might otherwise help us get to know them, so, when it comes to their expressions of sexuality, we donít have to confront their personhood as well. But as soon as we know they have names, preferences, opinions, histories, relationships, and dreams, we become uncomfortable.
A reduction takes place when a person is only a body. I believe the message of sexualization is this: one person can own another. And that reduction, that owning, runs contrary to the truths we hold to be self-evident. The minute the scantily-clad woman speaks her mind is the minute we know she is a person whom weíve tried to own
Diaz: Joe Dibuduo wrote A Penis Manologue. He gave out questionnaires, but only one other person responded. Would you consider using this as a basis for a companion piece to The Vagina Monologues? Are you familiar with Deez Nuts ? Supposedly this is a male response to The Vagina Monologues.
Miller: God, I have so many thoughts on this! Forgive me, Iím not familiar with these plays, but Iím interested to know what they discuss.
First off, I think most men in our culture have been raised with a fear of homoeroticism. Many have stories about guys in their PE classes comparing penis sizes with each other, but same-sex sexual behavior is still kept very quiet. Additionally, many straight men avoid behavior that their straight male peers might consider feminine or gay. When I was in school, we learned in health and religion classes about the ďnaturalĒ differences between boys and girls, which included how we carry our books, how we cross our legs, how we look at our fingernails, and other innocuous details. Thereís also the fact that men are usually discouraged from expressing deep feelings and fears, so I can imagine a survey about how one experiences his penis wouldnít get many results! Also, how many men would consent to an interview about his penis with another man?
Whatís important to keep in mind, though, is that women have not been given the same opportunities to speak out that men have. The female body has been taken over by politics in a way that the male body hasnít. What parts of their bodies do men need to reclaim? In what parts of the world do men fear genital mutilation on the level of FGM? Where do men have to worry about being raped and forced into marriage? In times of war, how many men are violated as a tool of war? In many places, homosexual rape against men does occur as a means of humiliation and punishment, but the violation there also includes forcing a man into the submissive role of the sex act, something that is inherent in rape against women.
The Vagina Monologues exists and continues to be performed because we need it. We canít argue that men and women are facing the same severity in gender and sex inequality. We just canít.
The Vagina Monologues will hit the stage Friday, February 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 28 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Studio Theater (the old PIT theater) in Kettler Hall. Tickets for students will be $5, general admission will be $10, and people are invited to be Vagina Warriors for $25, with all proceeds going to the Center for Nonviolence. For ticket information, call 481-6555.