This past Saturday night, over 800 students and local residents crowded into the Skinner Memorial Chapel for the annual performance of “The Vagina Monologues.” The stage was swathed in pink and red blankets, pillows and sheets, serving as a backdrop to the thirty-five female students who performed or narrated one of the twenty-one monologues during the show. Sitting in the front row of the audience were several dozen male students who were recognized at the beginning of the show as being the “Pink Party guys” - men who had volunteered themselves to promote the prevention of sexual violence as being not only an issue important for women, but for men as well.
This year marked the national tenth anniversary of “V-Day,” a global movement to end violence against women that raises awareness through benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues. In writing the original pieces over ten years ago, activist Eve Ensler remarked that “what we don't say becomes a secret, and secrets often create shame and fear and myths.” In this regard, the Monologues are often seen as a vehicle to empower women to speak honestly and openly about their body. With a general theme of gender and sexuality running through each monologue, many of the pieces address difficult issues such as rape, domestic abuse and self-exploration. This year, performances around the country also gave special recognition to “Katrina Warriors” –the women of New Orleans– for their “strength and resilience in the face of devastating loss.” Temera Holt, a sophomore from New Orleans whose family was affected by Hurricane Katrina, performed this monologue, which opened the show.
As a fundraiser, The Vagina Monologues collected over $4,000 dollars through ticket sales, merchandise and a raffle. A portion of the funds raised by the Carleton production is being donated to the non-profit group Women of New Orleans, with the remaining proceeds being given to the Hope Center in Faribault, an outreach organization aimed at domestic violence prevention. However, the primary purpose of The Vagina Monologues is not just to raise money, but also awareness, argues Leahruth Jemilo, one of the senior producers. “It's not just a show, and not just a performance,” Jemilo said. “Giving voice to the Monologues, it's like storytelling. It's empowering. It's the process that is so important.”
Juliet Dana, a third-year participant in the Carleton production and a narrator in this year's show, would likely agree. “I hadn't expected that my participation would impact me so much,” Dana said. “I thought the shows biggest impact came from first-time viewing, and I was eager to share that with first-time audience members, but I wasn't anticipating the process to be so personally significant.” This is not to imply that the audience is cheated in any way from the full value of the performance. Lucy Horns, a senior, performed in the Monologues two years ago but continues to attend each year. “Because of its continually changing nature, and the different voice each woman can bring to the show, I always take away something new,” Horns said. “It's a powerful experience to sit in the audience.”