Celebrating female power with ‘The Vagina Monologues’

May 5, 2015, 10:04 p.m.

Walking into Stanford’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” last Sunday, produced by Kardinal Kink, a friendly guy invited me to take whatever I wanted. I looked down to see the selection of what he was offering and glimpsed a pile of condoms. As the event was sponsored by the Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, also known as SHPRC, I was not too surprised, but I wondered what was in store.

From the very first introductory monologue — there were 18 in total — the purpose of the show was clear: When given the chance, women love to talk about their vaginas! The show is a creative synthesis of the testimonies of various women from all backgrounds, discussing and celebrating the body part that is so often dismissed.

At first, the show struggled to find its tone. Seemingly as a measure to counteract inevitable audience awkwardness, the first actors, who performed in groups, were excessively enthused about their lady parts, which came across as uncomfortable. However, as the monologues became more personal and affecting, the frank, open and unashamed attitude of the actors came through more strongly.

The subjects of the monologues ran the gamut, from stories of women learning to be comfortable with and celebrate their vaginas to the psychological effects of men’s disrespect or even violation of “the sacred temple.”  Mia Ritter-Whittle revered female orgasms and moaning in “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” unabashedly finishing her performance with a variety of sex noises. Yifan Huang was affecting in the piece “My Vagina Was My Village,” in which she juxtaposed how her body felt before and after sexual assault. It went from a clear, sunny field to a dead, rotten animal, and none of it was her fault. Ashlea Haney continued the prevalent theme of sexual violation in the monologue “My Short Skirt,” in which she powerfully and confidently asserted that her short skirt was not an invitation nor an excuse for boys to force her into doing something she did not want to do. Given the the charged climate and emotions concerning sexual assault on campuses across the country, the monologue was very moving and timely.

The show also approached societal expectations of women. Valerie Chen’s monologue “Hair” spoke out against a husband that cheated on his wife and blamed it on her not shaving her private parts, even though it was her prerogative. Avanti Shrikumar delivered a hilarious, standout performance in “My Angry Vagina,” in which she condemned “sticking cotton up my vagina” with tampons, as well as douche sprays — “I don’t want my pussy to smell like rain!”  By this point, the audience was completely comfortable, bubbling with laughter. All that women and their vaginas really want is respect and pleasure.

Director Rachel Zilberg prefaced the performance by telling the audience about a controversy that criticized the title of the show for precluding those women who do not actually have vaginas. To counter this oversight, they included a powerful ensemble piece called “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy — or So They Tried” about transgender women. The term “woman” has a broad definition, and it was good to see inclusiveness in the production.

The show’s goal was to celebrate the power of women and give them a space to have their voices heard on stage, and not only did it accomplish that, it was entertaining to boot. I left the show feeling empowered and proud to be a woman, in the company of strong, intelligent and motivated females.

Contact Maddy MacLeod at mmacleod ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Madeline MacLeod is a Staff Writer for the Theater beat at the Stanford Daily. She is a freshman from Roseville, California who loves English, French, psychology, and of course, theater! In her spare time, Madeline enjoys reading, hiking, and running. To contact Madeline, please email mmacleod 'at' stanford.edu.

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