What is the Vagina Monologues?
By the Vagina Monologues Cast and Crew
“What is the Vagina Monologues?” “So its just a bunch of women talking about their vaginas?” “I don’t get what its all about.” I’ve gotten statements and questions like these and more in the past couple of weeks about the upcoming show. If you find yourself also wondering these questions, I have a simple answer for you: come to the show and find out. I don’t want to discourage you from asking me what the Vagina Monologues is all about; I just also want you to find out for yourselves. However, I know you all won’t come. Unfortunately, it seems people would rather just get a quick answer than actually get the full answer and the full experience by attending the show. This article attempts to address what the show is about and why UCI Law still needs it.
There is no one answer to the question, “What is the Vagina Monologues?” It can mean something different to every woman. A common answer is that it starts conversations about the vagina, about women, about violence and harassment, about sex; these conversations don’t happen enough in our society. Below is one account of the conversations it can start and why UCI needs the Vagina Monologues. So yes, some of it is “women talking about their vaginas,” but it is not just that. It is so much more. It is about the violence and anger and sex surrounding the vagina. And even if it were “just a bunch of women talking about their vaginas,” you should still go to see that show. It just might spark up a conversation about women we all should already be having. And yes, the show may make you uncomfortable at times, but if we always shied away from the uncomfortable, we would never create change.
If you still find yourself wondering, “What is the Vagina Monologues all about?” I encourage you to ask a WLS member, ask any woman you know, or simply come to the show and start a conversation.
Why have a UCI Law show?
UCI Law still needs the Vagina Monologues. The show has been correctly described as outdated, incendiary, westernized, elitist, and sanitized. The monologues are based on interviews with hundreds of women, but were written in 1994 by one woman. Each year a new monologue is rotated into the show, often in attempt to keep it updated and focused on a common issue. So why does UCI Law put on the show? It is our effort to raise awareness about violence against women, with the goal of ending all violence against women. The core, unchanging monologues touch upon a range of topics important to women, including masturbation, domestic violence, language surrounding “vagina”, trans women, sexuality, rape as a tool of war, and childbirth. Many of these topics are rarely discussed outside of the show. I consider myself a strong Vagina Warrior (aka advocate), but even I tend to shy away from certain topics because it may be uncomfortable for others, and let’s face it, I don’t always want to be a “Debbie Downer,” “Negative Nancy,” or “Party Pooper” (interestingly and not coincidentally, two of the three are named as women). The Vagina Monologues attempts to create a safe space in which to incite conversation and debate.
Last year, a few students were put off by the aggressive, vagina-centric advertising of the show. They deemed it all shock and no substance. Some of us rebelled against this perception, putting on hairy vagina masks and scribbling out signs about losing our virginity. We refused to recognize that we needed to ease some people into the show, and we pushed even harder. Things came to a head, and two students — one affiliated with the Vagina Monologues, one disillusioned by it — got into an argument about the show. As a witness, I was indignant. I stomped off. Later, they had a conversation. I don’t know what was said. But I do know that the previously disillusioned one was in one of the front rows on opening night, with his wife. And he congratulated us all warmly.
Why have an entire show if we want to start conversations?
The show is incredibly important to our inclusive and progressive community, committed to equality of all types. While I sincerely hope that no member of our community is subjected to violence, the statistic tell a vastly different story: 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. For a more local figure, consider that in California, domestic violence homicides increased 30% between 2008 and 2011, even as overall homicides dropped. It is important to be reminded that there are still unacceptably high rates of violence against women. And to those concerned about intimate partner violence towards men, the Vagina Monologues speaks to this too–it challenges rigid social norms of both masculinity and femininity and attempts to break down power dynamics between individuals and on a societal level.
As future lawyers, it is our responsibility to understand these social dynamics and commit to helping those in need. Some if not all of the topics discussed will be uncomfortable and are deeply disturbing. The fact that these issues are still pervasive and commonly accepted as status quo is deeply disturbing. It is imperative that UCI Law students, faculty, staff, and family members engage in the topics. This can be by reading the Voice articles, attending speaker panels, and, of course, attending the show. At the very least, I ask that you talk to anyone who identifies as a woman in your life about her lived experience as a woman in this society.