Let’s Talk Vaginas: Understanding the Impact of UNCG’s ‘Vagina Monologues’

Jessica Clifford
Arts & Entertainment Editor

A_E, 1_31, Vagina Monologues, Jessica Clifford, PC_ Vagina Monologues.jpg

Photo credit: Vagina Monologues

With the Hallmark card holiday sewn into the month of February, the V-Day Campaign and its annual support of “The Vagina Monologues,” tends to be overlooked. However, the UNCG cast of the sixth production on campus, since its reintroduction, view the Monologues as more than a quirky show that repeats the word vagina – instead, they view it as empowerment.

“The Vagina Monologues” acts as the major campaign for V-Day, a global movement to end violence against all women and girls. This year marks the 20th anniverary of the production, which showcases the real stories and experiences of women and girls around the globe.

At UNCG, all the profits garnered by the production goes directly to the Clara House, a domestic abuse shelter for women and children located in Greensboro.

“When we think about the impact that we are having on the community, it makes the initiative heartwarming and inspirational,” said Maggie Gillespie, the annual director of the Monologues and UNCG’s Housing and Residence Life’s Coordinator for Special Projects.

Gillespie said the production grows every year, with last year’s proceeds totaling $3,157 and 2,500 feminine hygiene items including tampons, pads, cleansing wipes, soap and more going to the Clara House. In all, last year, 720 people attended the Monologues, which is record breaking for the UNCG production.

For cast members to understand the impact of the project, they view an educational video during the first rehearsal, which shows what it is like to be on their menstrual cycle while being homeless.

In this production that unit’s women from all backgrounds, not all the cast members perform for the same reason.

“As a theater student, it’s partially a performance opportunity,” said Sarah Palm, a six-year veteran performer of the Monologues. “It’s also a show that is entirely about women’s rights, and owning our sexuality and owning our femininity.”

While some cast members are theater majors, others perform because they wanted to get involved or they are passionate about the Monologue’s theme of empowerment.

“I’m a really big feminist,” said Autney Ramseur, a freshman who performs “My Angry Vagina.” “So, when I saw the email sent out about it, I kind of looked into it…I think it’s really cool that there is a whole production based around loving yourself because it’s one thing to love your body, but it’s a whole other thing to love your vagina.”

Another freshman performer, Laila Eustache, wanted to take part in the show for an opposing reason. “I feel like I don’t focus enough on my womanhood,” she said. “I grew up as a tomboy, so I’m always thinking like constantly about black rights and black fairness, but I never stop to think I’m a woman too.” For Eustache, performing in the Monologues gives her something new to fight for.

Gillespie said this year is different from others because nearly half of the cast is returning from previous years.

April Marshall, an Assistant Director of Leadership for the Office of Leadership and Service Learning, is just one of many women returning to the stage. With this being Marshall’s third year in the Monologues, she has found a sense of commitment to the show.

“I love the work that the producers put into making sure the Clara House is supported,” she said. “I think that’s really important.”

Besides the benefits that the Monologues bring to the Clara House, Marshall believes this year’s performance has more weight due to the current political climate.

“I think its always been important,” she said. “But, this year I feel like it resonates with me in a little bit of a different way, especially after the MeToo hashtag and the whole movement.”

With recent activity towards gender equality throughout the nation, Nyaa Vincent, a third-year performer and a junior at UNCG, believes the production would be different if it were redone by the V-Day Movement. However, Gillespie said the V-Day campaign makes any changes to the script they see necessary before the scripts are used for the following year. Many of those changes are only tweaking minor wording issues.

Though stories are slightly changed, it might be questioned how the Monologues represent the full diversity of womanhood.

“I definitely think that some stories can be construed as possibly not talking about the black story of feminism, because as we have seen in today’s society, you have feminism and you have black feminism, and they are two totally and completely different things because we have two different battles, unfortunately, because of the color of our skin,” said Christine E. Williams, one of the seven producers of the show.

However, Williams said she is proud of how different women from different backgrounds make the roles their own, adding perspective and flare to each of them.

Since UNCG is the most diverse campus in the UNC system, many producers place attention on the production’s casting so it represents everyone equally. Gillespie said the cast diversifies as the show continues, bringing intersectionality through age, such as the various undergraduate, graduate, staff and faculty taking part in the production, but the show also places emphasis on non-visual diversity.

“In our cast, we have those that have been sexually assaulted and raped, and told that their skirt is too short because of whatever reason, or told they look like a hooker because they are wearing a crop top,” Gillespie said.

Besides showing diversity, many cast members feel there are crucial takeaways from the Monologues. While some women, such as Eustache, want people to learn to respect women for what they go through, others, such as Williams, feel as though people should understand that women are flexible in their femininity and personas.

“It shows in the show, which I love, that women can be both sheep and wolf at the same time,” Williams said. “We can be sexy, we can be hard, we can be rigid, we can be whatever.”

However, “The Vagina Monologues” carries one sentiment across all women performing at UNCG – empowerment. Gillespie said the production “allows our cast members to speak about sexuality in a comforting way – it destigmatizes the feminine sexuality and all the organs and orgasms that go with sex.”

For those that want to celebrate women this February, they can attend “The Vagina Monologues” on Feb. 9-10 in the EUC Auditorium. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Entry for the show requires a minimum of a $5 donation or a donated feminine hygiene item.

“We all want to be bold and empowered inside of our femininity,” Williams said. “And, we are all going to get there one day,” she assured.

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