Inclusivity in sexuality: Washington University’s first ‘[Blank] Monologues’

Leah Hardgrove | Staff Writer

On Feb. 15 and 16 in Holmes Lounge, Washington University students performed in “[Blank] Monologues,” a modified performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” In adapting this show to become more gender inclusive, this year’s audience members, regardless of how they identified, were able to more strongly connect with the impactful monologues. Thirty performers spoke 20 different pieces, all centering around sexuality, sexual violence, body image and more.

“I think ‘[Blank] Monologues’ is important because it brings awareness to so many different topics that are often overlooked in day-to-day conversations,” sophomore Ava Hansen said. Viewers during the performance were encouraged to be uncomfortable, not unsafe, in order to fully understand the topics presented. It can be difficult to experience such intense subject matters, but the performers blended sensitive materials with the right amount of humor to make the show enjoyable for all. Hansen noted, “within just two hours, ‘[Blank] Monologues’ was able to create an environment where experiences surrounding sexuality, body image and vaginas could be freely discussed without judgement.”

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This production wasn’t just impactful to the audience; the performers felt emboldened, too. As today’s society strives for equality, “[Blank] Monologues” gives a platform for college students to educate their peers and break down taboo surrounding genitalia and sexuality. “I decided to perform because I am really passionate about ending stigmas, especially surrounding women’s health issues,” shared sophomore Maia Nagle, who performed “My Angry Vagina.” Every performer had a different motivation for participating, so working together on such a progressive piece allowed each actor to learn from one another.

What makes “[Blank] Monologues” so meaningful is that it’s presented for Washington University students, by Washington University students. When addressing these issues in program orientations and mainstream media, it’s easy to feel disconnected from the topic, as they’re discussed in a scripted, fictional scenario. However, when the performers are friends speaking as themselves, not as characters, the gravity of the performance resonates more strongly with viewers; there is a strong personal connection with what is being said, this year especially.

Eight original pieces were written by seven incredible students: “My Feminism,” by junior Monica Unzueta, “Wear/Say” and “Not-So-Happy-Fact” by senior Genevieve Leach, “Sexyb—-angrybush,” by senior Emily Manin, “I Want my Body Back,” by freshman Sophie Devincenti, “Claudia” by senior Ariel Kravitz, “The Woman Who Slipped Away,” by senior Sanjana Babu and “Why I Didn’t Report,” by senior Maya Coyle. These pieces especially stood out, as they were the most personal and emotional for the audience. Watching as a friend and classmate of these strong performers, it was rewarding to see all the hard work and dedication pay off.

This performance not only enriches campus life but St. Louis community life as well. This year, proceeds from “[Blank] Monologues” support Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), a nonprofit that works to build an inclusive community for trans, genderqueer, androgynous, intersex and allies in the St. Louis area. Having a vagina and being a woman are not mutually exclusive, and lessons learned during the performance are important for everyone, no matter their gender identity. Cis-gender women are not the only people affected by sexuality stigma. By supporting MTUG and rebranding from “Vagina Monologues” to “[Blank] Monologues,” this performance was welcoming to a more diverse group of viewers. This move was deliberate and effective, as more students than ever felt deeply affected by the words spoken.

2019 “[Blank] Monologues” left a lasting imprint on how students interact with each other in their daily lives, opening the door to more inclusive dialogue about such current, significant issues.

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