Augustana junior Rukmini Girish, like many, used to feel uncomfortable saying the word ‘vagina’ – especially in front of others. Now, she’s directing a production that throws it out in the open to prove a major point.
“There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them – like the Bermunda Triangle.” Surrounding vaginas, that is. This quote comes directly from an episodic play called The Vagina Monologues, a play made up of a series of episodes about – you guessed it – vaginas. From gut-wrenching to downright hilarious, the Monologues touch on a variety of women-affirming topics.
Girish is directing the Monologues this year, making this her third year involved in the production. She said a diverse group of people join the production for a variety of different reasons. For herself, it was something she heard word of her first year at Augustana and decided to check out.
“I grew up in India so for me just saying the word vagina in public was something that was kind of cool,” said Girish. “It’s a great cause. It’s a great show.”
Likewise, senior Natalie Sherman will be performing for the third year in a row. This year, she snagged the “Reclaiming Cunt” skit, one of her favorites, she said. “My favorite overall is ‘My Angry Vagina,'” said Sherman. “It’s hilariously relatable.”
The Vagina Monologues have become an annual installment in Augustana’s performing schedule – this will be the 11th annual performance at Augustana. This year, 25 women will participate in the form of speaking, organizing and producing the Monologues with a crew of 6 men and women helping backstage. Ticket and merchandise sales go to Family Resources V-Day efforts – a global activist movement centered on ending violence against women and girls.
V-Day was founded in 1998 by Eve Ensler, the playwright that wrote The Vagina Monologues in 1994. Both the play and the organization has seen immense success since their creation. The “V” in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina, according to the organization’s website. V-Day is both the name of the charity and the day the movement occurs each year – Valentine’s Day. The organization envisions “a world where women live safely and freely.”
Sherman finds the message of the Monologues to be empowering. “I think to each person, it’s different, but to me (the message is) to never feel inadequate or sorry for being a woman and to always question everything that makes you feel as though you are. The monologues are proof that women can achieve anything when we rally together and support one another,” she said.
Though the United States and many other countries have made many gains in women’s rights and treatment, there is still violence practiced towards women in the United States and abroad.
“Different people have a lot of different experiences and attitudes toward vaginas,” said Girish.
Girish knows first-hand the difference in women’s treatment across cultures. “There’re many bad things that happen to women here (in the United States), and I’m not trying to diminish that,” said Girish. “But there are things that you take for granted here that you aren’t able to do there (in India)…like walking down the street wearing short shorts. Women don’t do that there. You will get attention that you don’t want.”
The Monologues are a direct answer to the expectations put on women, and “they definitely intimidate people,” said Girish.
Sherman acknowledged the intimidation factor, as well. “I know it may sound like an uncomfortable or awkward show to attend, but I think the first time people go, they are always very pleasantly surprised,” said Sherman. “We have a wide range of monologues from comical, to sad, to just plain weird performed by very passionate and talented young women. Overall, it’s a very eye-opening experience. It has something for everyone.”
The Vagina Monologues are one of the fundraising and awareness efforts of the V-Day organization, performed by colleges and groups across the nation. Augustana contributed $2,000 last year to this cause through Monologue ticket and merchandise sales.
Girish explained that as V-Day licenses the Monologues, 10 percent of the proceeds are required to go back to them. Augustana generally gives the rest to Family Resources to have a local impact.
The Vagina Monologues will be performed at Augustana on Feb. 13 and 15 at 7 p.m. in Wallenburg Hall. Tickets, sold in the Center for Student Life this week and next, are $6 in advance or $9 at the door.