‘The Vagina Monologues’ celebrates intersectional feminism in Holmes Lounge performances

| News Editor

Eve Ensler’s play “The Vagina Monologues” was performed by Washington University students to sold-out audiences in Holmes Lounge Feb. 9 and 10.

The show was first performed in 1996 and has been staged internationally ever since. The play is a piece of political theater that takes form as a series of monologues, which address topics like body image, reproduction, sexuality, sexual violence, transgender experiences and more.

The “Vagina Monologues”’ cast performs an original song by sophomore Taylor Emerson titled “It’s All on You.” The Eve Esner-penned play was performed Feb. 9 and 10 in Holmes Lounge.Jordan Chow | Student Life

The “Vagina Monologues”’ cast performs an original song by sophomore Taylor Emerson titled “It’s All on You.” The Eve Esner-penned play was performed Feb. 9 and 10 in Holmes Lounge.

The show was directed by junior Sabrina Odigie and produced by junior Sara Arfania.

“The show, to me, symbolizes getting into Wash. U. and transforming myself into a better feminist, and then when I was in [“Vagina Monologues”], it was about being more inclusive and understanding about all the different ways we can be women, and this year, it was important because I wanted to share it with people and make it as powerful as possible,” Odigie said.

The piece was based on Ensler’s interviews with 200 different women about sex, body image, relationships and violence against women. The play began as a celebration of vaginas and femininity and evolved into a movement against gender-based violence.

Ensler launched the global non-profit organization V-Day as part of turning “Vagina Monologues” into a movement combating violence against women. In the spirit of service and philanthropy for women, Washington University’s “Vagina Monologues” chose its own beneficiary: Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Program (IRWP), a St. Louis community non-profit.

IRWP’s mission is to serve immigrant and refugee women of the St. Louis area by providing them with English language instruction in hopes of increasing their independence and reducing isolation. In 2017, IRWP worked with 350 students from 49 different nations, logging 13,208 hours of one-on-one instruction, while assisting 20 women in earning their U.S. citizenship. All proceeds from “Vagina Monologues” this past weekend went to benefit IRWP.

The show, as a representation of the female experience, is meant to be performed by a group of women who represent diverse feminine identities, with an emphasis on the role of intersectionality in feminism.

“We believe that there is no single view, narrative or image of womanhood. Further, having a vagina and womanhood are not mutually exclusive,” the show program reads.

In this past weekend’s performance, students presented 16 of Ensler’s original monologues as well as three original student pieces. The show opened with sophomore Monica Unzueta’s piece titled “My Feminism,” featured sophomore Taylor Emerson’s original song “It’s All on You” and closed with sophomore Madison Lee’s original monologue “My Immature Vagina.”

Out of Ensler’s 16 monologues performed, 15 were original components of the show. “They Beat the Girl out of My Boy…Or so They Tried” was written in 2004 to address the experiences of transgender women. Ensler introduces a new monologue into the series each year as a way to recognize current and changing experiences for women. This particular monologue was originally portrayed by a cast of all transgender women.

“It’s a poem; it’s a story of a trans woman as she’s moving through her life and transitioning from being a man to a woman and struggling with her own body issues and identity,” freshman performer Auriann Sehi said.

For Sehi, performing “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy…Or so They Tried” helped her recognize her cisgender privilege.

“There’s a part when she’s talking about how she can wake up in the morning and put her hair in a ponytail. And I think about my own life—how it is being a cisgender woman—and how I do that thing several times a day and not even think about it,” Sehi said.

According to sophomore Sarah James, being a cast member of “The Vagina Monologues” was an empowering experience. She performed “My Short Skirt,” a commentary on rape culture and claiming femininity.

“It was just so empowering to be a part of it because we all have so many insecurities, and so just to be around other women supporting each other is so important,” James said.

The performance was well-received by those in attendance.

“I thought it was a really powerful experience, and they talked about really important issues and the strength of the woman’s body, not just how we experience weaknesses as women,” freshman Taylor Hurst said.