Vagina: the word brings either feelings of extreme discomfort at the mention of the female anatomy from most people or fits of snickering from others. To Eve Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues” and founder of V-Day, this particular word has a deep meaning that is connected to empowerment for women.After growing up in an abusive household, Ensler devoted her life to ending violence against women and girls. “The Vagina Monologues” was Ensler’s first attempt to raise awareness of this abuse.
The play is a series of monologues based off of over 200 interviews of women from a variety of backgrounds and lifestyles; it describes women’s sexuality and resilience in a witty, sometimes shocking and serious manner. “The Vagina Monologues” has become extremely successful after its debut in 1996.
According to vday.org, the play has been translated into 45 languages, won numerous awards and critical acclaim and is currently running in theaters world-wide. The huge success of “The Vagina Monologues” inspired Ensler to start V-Day, a campaign to end violence and abuse to women and girls.
Today, V-Day has expanded to a global project that helps local and global agencies “continue and expand their core work on the ground, while drawing public attention to the larger fight to stop worldwide violence (including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual slavery) against women and girls,” explains its website, vday.org. So far, the organization has raised over $35 million.
College campuses often put on productions of “The Vagina Monologues” as a fundraiser for V-Day; profits from ticket sales are used to support local women’s shelters and other anti-abuse organizations.
West Chester University is one of the many colleges across the United States that has participated in the presentation of “The Vagina Monologues” to both spread awareness and raise money for local and international charities.
2008 marks the eighth year for the production of “The Vagina Monologues” here at WCU. The proceeds from this year’s production of the play benefit four organizations: the Chester County Domestic Violence Center, the Chester County Crime Center, Casa Amigas and as requested by Ensler, a Spotlight Donation for women who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. WCU student Ashley Manta coordinated this year’s performance with the assistance of the WCU Women’s Center and other students who acted as both performers and directors.
“By organizing this production, I hope to raise awareness about issues of violence against women and girls, and on a more personal level, issues of body image, embracing womanhood in all its manifestations from birth to menstruation to sexuality, and to raise money for causes which benefit women and girls,” Manta said.
The monologues were performed by female students; the subject matters in these monologues ranged from a group of girls recalling their first menstrual period (“I was 12”) to a woman affirming her independence from injustices put on the vagina from doctors’ visits or tampons (“My Angry Vagina”).
Although the monologues’ topics are controversial to many critics, Ensler dealt with the material in a humorous yet sensitive manner so that audience members, both male and female, could form some sort of connection with the characters’ plights.
“With this production, I really hoped to convey a deep sense of pride in being women, and to offer a combination of humor and emotion to those viewing it in the hopes of raising awareness about female body image, violence against women and girls and just what it means to be female,” Manta said.
She would like to thank the actors, directors Jenn Rothstein and Ashley Renee Yezuita and Robin Garrett, director of the women’s center for helping this year’s production become a success. This year’s production is sure to follow suit in the previous years’ traditions of raising awareness of violence against women and girls and donating money to noteworthy causes.
Ensler’s initial goal in starting V-Day is certainly manifested in the efforts made to present “The Vagina Monologues” here at WCU. Hopefully, West Chester will continue to spread this awareness and continue to fight for the end of sexual and physical abuse to women through this annual production for years to come.
Jennifer James is a first-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at JJ655874@wcupa.edu.