The Vagina Monologues empowering women



Dr. Sarah Parker performing at the debut of The Vagina Monologues at Terry Concert Hall on Feb. 7

Gabriela Lovera, Editor in Chief

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—”Wet, silky, mystifying.”

All words used by the cast of “The Vagina Monologues,” which debuted for the second time at Jacksonville University on Feb. 7.

The play was written by Eve Ensler in 1996 and it explores a variety of themes and topics through the eyes of women from different ages, races and sexualities.

Ensler interviewed more than 200 women from diverse backgrounds and asked them three basic questions:

If your vagina had a name, what would it be?

If your vagina could talk, what would it say?

If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?

She then compiled the information to write 11 monologues, each exploring a different topic such as violence against women, genital mutilation, rape, sex work and reproduction; to name a few.

In 1998, Ensler and a group of women in New York created V-Day, a non-profit organization aimed at ending violence against women and girls around the world. To raise money for the cause, Ensler organized a benefit performance of TVM which raised over $250,000.

Every year, in February, Ensler allows groups around the world to perform the play under one condition.

“If you do it in month of February, you pay no rights for it as long as you take all the money for it and you give it to an organization that helps fight violence against women,” said Deborah Jordan, associate professor of theater and director of the play.

Jordan took advantage of this opportunity and brought The Vagina Monologues back to campus.

TVM was an interdisciplinary collaboration. Jordan reached out to ceramic professors Tiffany Leach and Dana Tupa to create ceramic flowers to be sold in the three days of the show.

“We are strong supporters of collaborative style productions where students gain new insights in addition to participating,” said Tupa. “This year’s collaboration sprang from student Leah Finsie’s interest in a public art display that could be installed in multiple locations on campus. The interactive flower garden took root.”

Tupa, Leach and 24 ceramics students designed 150 flower-like ceramic figures, meant to represent the different vaginas addressed in the monologues.

This year’s performance, coupled with the profits from the vagina garden, raised approximately $600 which were donated to Hubbard House, a domestic violence shelter in Florida.

Inspired by the Ensler’s interview questions, Jordan asked those same questions to students, faculty and staff at JU.

“We took all three questions and we walked around campus, and one of the film studies students filmed the interviews,” said Jordan. “The reaction to those questions were just as priceless as the answers themselves.”

With the consent of the interviewees, the video was played during the event as transitions between monologues.

Every monologue is different in nature, context and content. However, they all revolve around the same topic: vaginas.

“One of them talks about the flood, and it narrates something that happened to a woman at a young age and how it embarrassed her,” said Jordan. “Another one was written about a Bosnian woman who had been gang-raped. There’s another one that is about a Southern woman of color, who had been raped at a very early age, and it describes how she, at first, thought that the vagina was not a place of goodness and then how that conception changes. There’s one called ‘He liked to Look at it,’ and it was about a man who liked to look at it.”

Jordan cast 11 women, all from different backgrounds, with at least some acting experience. Each actor interpreted a different story.

Among the cast members was associate professor of English Sarah Parker who’s first encounter with “The Vagina Monologues” dates back to 2000.

Parker was introduced to the play as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She, along with five other friends, carried out the play’s production.

The event raised $10,000 which were all donated to the crisis center in Chapel Hill.

“I didn’t act in the play, but I did fundraising,” said Parker. “It was a transformative experience for me working on that and learning about violence against women,stuff I had been so sheltered from, and also just learning about what it means to be a young woman and growing into myself and my identity, identifying as a woman and caring about these issues.”

Parker believes that the play empowers women to share their stories outside the confines of the stage.

“Women need to talk to other women,” said Parker. “We need to be honest with each other, we need to tell each other about our experiences, we need to share our stories.”

Besides encouraging women to share their stories, Parker believes that the play shines a light on issues considered taboo.

“This play is also about addressing violence against women,” said Parker. “I think that when we have silence it creates space and opportunities for violence and when we talk about things it becomes harder for that violence to keep happening.”

Jordan believes that “The Vagina Monologues” also strives to break the taboo around the word “vagina.”

“In a larger sense, it is a way to learn to love that anatomy of your body without feeling ashamed or embarrassed about it,” said Jordan.

Overall, Jordan believes that the play is meant to educate, empower, and celebrate women.

“I want the audience to be able to listen to the monologues, go home and think about it, and have discussions about it and not be afraid,” said Jordan. “I want them to respect themselves and respect what other women have done before them.”