We may claim to live in progressive times, but sexism is still prevalent. A white woman earns 75 cents for every dollar a white man earns; a black woman 66 cents and a Hispanic woman 54 cents. Young girls are still forced into arranged marriages and sex slavery. In an effort to empower women and bring attention to their struggles, the Brandeis Vagina Club conducted its yearly performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” a play by Eve Ensler.
“The Vagina Monologues” took months of preparation for its performances in Spingold’s Merrick Theater. Auditions were held in January and the show ran from March 16-19.
“We could choose from about three different monologues, and when we were ready, we went in and read them in front of two members of the production staff,” cast member Benée Hershon ’20 said about the audition process. During the show, Hershon provided the audience with “Vagina Happy Facts” interspersed between monologues.
Walking into the theater, I was first amazed at how bright it was, in contrast to the dark stages I am accustomed for Brandeis performances. There was no proper stage but rather an area set aside for performers, with rows of folding chairs for audience members. The show opened with a trigger warning, making the audience aware that there would be mention of sensitive topics such as sexual violence and misogyny. A representative sat at the back of the audience to provide support if they felt like they needed to talk to someone during the show.
The show opened up with a monologue about a woman who had problems with her husband because she did not want to shave her pubic hair. Opening the show this way was powerful, showing how society forces women into doing what it expects of them, even if it makes women uncomfortable.
My favorite monologue centered on the story of an old woman who answered questions about her vagina. The woman thought that it was absurd to pay so much attention to one’s vagina, or as she liked to call it, “down there.” She told the audience anecdotes that explained why she felt so uncomfortable with her vagina, stories that she had never previously had the opportunity to say aloud and clearly had repressed. One aspect that made the performance so interesting was that it told the story of a generation that is often neglected and painted as “old fashioned” for not sharing the same progressive views as younger people, and helped give that generation a voice.
One of the most powerful performances was given by a woman who was raped during a war. She felt ashamed and thought there was nothing she could do about the trauma she faced. “The war one was emotional and I like how it spoke about issues that matter to women around the world and did not just pander to white feminists,” said Yaneth Martinez ’20.
Martinez also enjoyed a skit about a woman’s sexual encounter with a man named Bob. Bob is described as “the most ordinary man.” However, Bob loves vaginas, much to the orator’s surprise. He spends hours looking at them and helps the orator grow to love her own vagina.
The last performance was called “The Woman Who Loved To Make Vaginas Happy” and featured the story of a sex worker who loved to give women pleasure. The skit featured the whole cast who stood with their backs to the audience, providing some of the soundtrack behind the sex worker’s story.
When the play ended, all of the cast members embraced and congratulated each other. Any onlooker could see that they had become a community.
“[I loved] being a part of such an incredible community of caring and passionate individuals,” said Hershon. “It was amazing to be able to perform every night with a group of people who were passionate about the production and who were also passionate about helping each other. The show would not have had as much energy or emotion without our little but powerful community supporting each other,” Hershon added.
“The Vagina Monologues” donated all the proceeds to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN).