March 07, 2014 by Jennifer Lam
Drexel faculty, staff and students joined together to take an active stand to end violence against women and girls Feb. 28 and March 1 with performances of V-Day’s award-winning play, “The Vagina Monologues.” Spoken directly to the audience in a series of monologues, “The Vagina Monologues” has become a celebration of women’s empowerment. The proceeds of the event were donated to Women Organized Against Rape, as well as V-Day’s Spotlight Campaign, One Billion Rising for Justice. WOAR is a nonprofit organization located in Philadelphia that works to eliminate all forms of sexual violence by providing free counseling for sexual violence victims, prevention education programs and treatment services. The event was sponsored by the Student Center for Inclusion and Culture.
Based off Tony Award-winning playwright Eve Ensler’s interviews with over 200 women of various backgrounds, each show can vary the monologues based on current events and interests. The play won the Obie Award, has been translated into over 48 different languages and has been performed in 140 different countries. Funny, tender and provocative, this particular version featured interviews from seventeen different women with topics ranging from sexual abuse to lack of sex education. In each of these interviews, the women answered questions such as “If your vagina was a person, what would it wear?” and “What would your vagina say if it could speak?” Using a variety of voices, from a 6-year-old victim of sexual abuse to a 72-year-old woman who never learned about “down there,” the production captivated the audience with an eye-opening tale of the strength and resilience of women around the world.
One such story was “My Vagina Was My Village,” a monologue performed by Drexel student Ellen Gingrich, a passionate testimony from a Bosnian survivor of rape. This piece captured the inner struggle of a survivor’s identity before and after the sexual assault. Lines such as “My vagina was green, water soft pink fields” contrasted with “Not since I dream there’s a dead animal sewn in down there with a thick black fishing line,” shockingly describing a brutality that most audience members could not even imagine. With powerful emotion also came refreshing breaths of humor, particularly in “My Angry Vagina”. Ranting about the frustration of tampons, cleansing products and duck lips, alumna Shumethia Seal had the audience laughing and affirming the underlying truth of her tirade.
After the show, audience members mingled with the performers for an informal question-and-answer session. Drexel Public Safety offered a free signup to their Rape Aggression Defense course, which consists of four classes and a certification of completion. In reaction to the show, one member of the audience said, “It’s amazing just to see the vehicle used to discuss the degree and depth of violence against women. To see how comfortable this is on a college campus is empowering.”
Glenn Booker, an associate teaching professor at Drexel, said, “So much of women’s sexuality is hidden today. This [play] is especially educational for the men that show up.” Booker performed in the moving monologue, “They Beat The Girl Out of My Boy … Or So They Tried,” which was originally performed by an all transgender cast.
A night of taboo topics and vulnerability, this event was one that the audience and performers are unlikely to forget. Raising controversial issues such as masturbation, homosexuality and sexual abuse, V-Day’s global activist movement continues to work towards an end to violence against women and a beginning to female empowerment.