I have never encountered a performance that so strongly resonated with a female audience.
The name of the show itself, The Vagina Monologues, is intimidating. Vagina is a word that is typically avoided in conversation, let alone acted out in a performance. As I walked into Rackham Auditorium, I was unsure what to expect. Should a woman’s private physical anatomy be so freely discussed?
The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, was originally performed at an Off-Broadway theater. The monologues retell more than 200 women’s stories through interviews with Ensler about femininity, sexuality, violence towards women, and their vaginas. Following its debut, the show expanded internationally and across media forms. Today, volunteers and college students take part in the production of the show to raise funds for V-Day, “a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.” This was the show’s fourth performance at the University of Michigan.
My original apprehension dissipated as I scanned the auditorium, filled predominately with women. The monologue topics ranged from sex, childbirth, health, rape, and everything in between. The performances were compelling, emotional, and, at times, humorous. Some monologues left the audience, me included, in bouts of laughter. For instance, the scene “My Angry Vagina” called attention to bodily aggravations that women experience on an everyday basis. Others, including the portrayal of a war rape victim, were very solemn. A woman’s description of childbirth, in contrast, was awe-inspiring. Though not every woman personally connected to each monologue, all women empathized with the female performers, no matter one’s age or lived experiences. I have never encountered a performance that so strongly resonated with a female audience.
The performance was an open space, away from social or cultural pressure, to discuss female sexuality. Resultantly, I bonded collectively with women of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities over our shared physical anatomy. At no point did I feel awkward or embarrassed, as I imagined. By the conclusion of the performance, I felt physically and mentally empowered, and proud of my womanhood.