Monologues’ helps women redefine their body image

by Christy Smith

“Let’s just start with the word ‘vagina,'” Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” begins. “It sounds like an infection at best, maybe a medical instrument: ‘Hurry, Nurse, bring me the vagina.’

“‘Vagina.’ ‘Vagina.’ Doesn’t matter how many times you say it, it never sounds like a word you want to say. It’s totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word.”

Ensler says she was inspired to write “The Vagina Monologues” in 1998 after a friend described her body in a menopause discussion. In the script, Ensler draws on more than 200 interviews of women and their feelings about their intimate anatomy. Ensler turned these narratives into what Gloria Steinem has called “poetry for the theater.”

“The Vagina Monologues” explores questions that are often thought of but rarely asked. Ensler asks the questions such as, “Do Women like their vaginas?”

Ensler describes her monologues as “a celebration of female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery.” With “The Vagina Monologues”, Ensler admits she hopes to create change.

“Language is a good start. You’ll find the v-word 128 times within the play’s 106 pages,” she says in an interview in the Metro Times Detroit.

“The Vagina Monologues” has been performed in cities all across the world and at hundreds of college campuses. The narratives have inspired the global V-Day annual event that raises money and promotes awareness to stop violence against women.

The first V-Day was celebrated on Valentines Day in 1998 in New York. Today over 300 college campuses celebrate V-Day with productions of the play.

Junior Aimee McCabe, Simpson College theatre major, would like to direct “The Vagina Monologues” at Simpson next year. Jennifer Nostrala, associate professor of theater, will co-direct with McCabe next spring.

“A woman is battered somewhere in America every fifteen seconds. That is why I want to do this production,” McCabe said. “I want to raise awareness about the horrors that so few people realize are happening all around us.”

“We have immense support from the campus, but we still need more people to volunteer,” McCabe said. “We need women to be onstage. Also we need both men and women to help with a variety of jobs behind the scenes.”

McCabe said she feels the apprehension of production of this play at Simpson and across the nation is due to the lack of knowledge.

“This is a woman-loving play, but that doesn’t make it a man-hating play,” McCabe said. “The play is a piece to bring the shadows to light. It is a beautiful portrayal of the strength we as women have and need to hold on to,” McCabe said.

The money raised by Simpson’s production will go to an area organization that provides support for abused women.

Recently Drake University put on their own production of “The Vagina Monologues”. But like others, Drake was a little hesitant at first.

“I had some trouble at Drake getting this play produced,” said senior Stacie O’Conner, Drake student director.

“I think people hear the title and immediately close up and shut down. It makes them uncomfortable. But that is why we have to do this play,” O’Conner said.

O’Conner said it was necessary to perform the play because she feels this play is about much more than just the vagina.

“In many ways this play is about reclaiming our bodies, our power and our lives,” she said.

The Drake director also has a young daughter whom she feels needs to understand the word vagina and its meaning.

“I have a little girl who is almost 4. I know that the simple act of teaching her to say vagina, of teaching her about the power and beauty of her body will empower her,” O’Conner said.

According to O’Conner the play is a celebration. “I think that people assume that it is a man-bashing or pornographic. It is neither. It is a celebratory, and poignant, and beautiful and graphic and powerful and important sexual story.”

The toughest people to convince the plays true meaning, according to O’Conner, are the advertisers.

The money raised by Drakes performance of “The Vagina Monologues” is going to RAWA (Revolutionary Afghanastani Women’s Association) and DWIAA (Deaf Women of Iowa Against Abuse), according to O’Conner.

The Civic Center of Greater Des Moines will have an opportunity for the public to see “The Vagina Monologues” yet this spring. Eight shows will be performed April 2-7.

Call (515) 243-1888 to order tickets or visit their website at Tickets prices start at $23.