The Vagina Monologues: Empowering Everybody, One Monologue at a Time
“When you bring consciousness to anything, things begin to shift.” - Eve Ensler
For the past five years, I have had the pleasure to be a part of the Vagina Monologues, produced by V-Day St. John’s. The first time I heard about the shows, I was really apprehensive. How was I, a nineteen-year-old girl, going to get up in front of a group of people and talk about my vagina? Would people want to listen? Would men be there? But most importantly, I asked myself “what will people learn from this?” This is a question asked by many people, I wanted to highlight some of the life-changing moments created and shared by those of every gender who have taken in the monologues, as well as some thoughts from the performers from this year’s show.
The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, is a collection of stories and interviews from women all around the world, all varying in topics including “flooding”, interactions with men and women, transitioning, and sexual abuse. Ensler compiled stories from a group of very diverse women and created monologues that make up this show.
Each year, V-Day St. John’s produces this show, and all the money raised gets donated. This year’s donation is going to the Newfoundland & Labrador Sexual Assault and Crisis Prevention Centre, Planned Parenthood NL, and the SKS Childcare Centre. This year's show is directed by monologue veterans Kathryn Burke and Jackie Hibbs.
“I would love to get to the point where we don’t actually need to put on this show anymore. I would love to live in a world where The Vagina Monologues are not necessary. Unfortunately, this show seems to be getting more and more appropriate and more and more in need,” said Burke.
Truer words may never have been spoken, and with more and more sexual assault victims coming forward, there has never been a better time to push these monologues. Just being involved in this show creates a safe space for women all over to come and join forces in the journey to end sexual violence. “Everyone who gets involved with The Vagina Monologues leaves with a family, an army of activists creating a voice for the unheard” stated Hibbs. “The last couple of months have not been easy but coming to each rehearsal, sitting down and listing to each person's lived experience completely humbles you and puts your own life in perspective.”
It is in these rehearsals where these women share experiences and grow from their past traumas. This show creates a therapeutic experience for women in the show, allowing a safe space to talk about past experiences and triggers. Burke explained that “each rehearsal is a place for people with lived female experience to come, meet new like-minded people, feel safe, and feel heard.” Both Hibbs and Burke took this safe space and nurtured it to become a powerful display of feminism and strength.
A question I get a lot as a performer of The Vagina Monologues is whether men are welcome. For many men, this show may be a bit frightening at first; and it is. For many people, this show is a lot to take in, but once people have experienced it, they are changed by it, being opened up to all the truth behind sexual violence against women. I talked to a few men who have seen The Vagina Monologues, and they all have very rewarding experiences with the show.
Raymond Critch’s partner Heather is a performer in the monologues, and he said that he was one of three men in the audience the first time he went to see the show. “Some of the stories are hard to listen to, that’s the point and I get it. Ultimately, though, the thing I like most about it, is the empowerment that the women involved come to feel...you can see it on stage whether you know anyone involved or not.”
Jordan Vincer, a friend of many performers in the monologues, sais that “As a male, I was able to learn and understand the struggles women go through on a day to day basis. I was inspired to help in the feminist movement and become a part of the important and beautiful community.” Vincer has seen the show many times since and keeps coming back to see them because of the impact they had on him. “I was flooded with emotions listening to the stories being told by these women. I was both laughing and crying while they captivated me with the beautiful and empowering monologues.”
I have been participating in this show for the last five years, and it truly has changed who I am as an activist, and how I see myself as a woman. I owe a lot of my growth to these amazing women who showed me that I am a strong female who can and will overcome the obstacles of my past.
I knew I couldn’t be the only person to be so moved by this production, so I asked a few of the performers this year to send me their thoughts on their participation in the show. These women all have different levels of experience, but in the end, are all doing it for the same reason. Here is what they have to say about the monologues:
“There are no small acts of feminism,” Meagan Campbell.
“They have opened my eyes,” Janet O’Reilly.
“Wonder-filled. Awestruck. Armoured,” Wendi Smallwood.
“Invigorated,” Brittany King.
“Safe,” Lauren Lambe.
A couple of years ago, myself and some of the girls went to Dave Munro of Trouble Bound Studios, where he tattooed us with the quote “Nevertheless, she persisted”. He then donated all the money from these tattoos to the Newfoundland & Labrador Sexual Assault and Crisis Prevention Centre.
I think this quote is the perfect way to sum up the overall feeling of The Vagina Monologues; no matter what happens, no matter what women go through, they rise through the ashes and they fight, they concur, they persist. Women never stop pushing for justice, and never stop crying for movement. We will never stop in our quest to end gender-based abuse, but until then, we will persist.
The Vagina Monologues will be at the LSPU Hall February 15, 16, and 17. If you cannot make the show, you can still donate to V-Day St. John’s to help end sexual violence.