According to CNN, one in every three women experiences sexual violence during her lifetime. Every year, students at UCSB bring light to these women’s stories by performing selections from Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, as well as pieces written by the students themselves.
The Vagina Monologues are a collection of stories drawn from the real-life experiences of hundreds of women of all ages and sexualities from all around the globe. Though it has been seen as controversial, the show is performed in honor of the countless women subjected to violence every year. Topics explored in the monologues include sexuality, labor, virginity, sexual assault, derogatory shaming experiences, liberation from sexual exploitation and fluid sexual experiences.
“I believe that The Vagina Monologues is just as much activism as it is performance,” said Julia Miller, a third year communication major and co-president of the UCSB Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe. “Every piece tells a different story that opens the audience up to change and progress.”
The Vagina Monologues are performed in honor of V-Day, a global activist movement that seeks to end violence against women. According to the official site, annual benefit performances such as The Vagina Monologues raise awareness and money for anti-violence groups within each troupe’s respective community.
“The Vagina Monologues, to me, is an invitation,” said Bridget Kyeremateng, black studies and feminist studies double major and the director of Herstories. “An invitation to have discussions about ‘taboo’ issues that women are not allowed to talk about. The Vagina Monologues, by being an invitation, allows people of all genders and identities to question how women’s experiences in society have been pushed away and oppressed. With that, we have a production that allows these women to express a sense of womanhood and empowerment that we do not see nearely enough in the media.”
V-Day is centered around four core beliefs, according to the official site: that art has the power to inspire people to act; that lasting change is spread by ordinary people doing extraordinary things; that local women know best when it comes to their communities’ needs; and that knowing the intersection of race, class and gender is integral to understanding violence against women.
UCSB’s performance will support One Billion Rising, a rape crisis center that aids women before, during and after abusive encounters. It will not be an easy show to watch, as it deals with material that many viewers have been taught for years is wrong to discuss, but it is important to attend and show support for the women who inspired the stories in The Vagina Monologues and solidarity for the women both on stage and off.
“I wrote a piece that I decided not to perform in the upcoming show, although one of my friends will be performing it,” Leilani Riahi, fourth year psychology major, said. “I wrote it because I shamed myself about an experience I had last year, and I knew it was about time that I forgave myself, forgave the one involved and normalized the concepts of STDs. I wrote it to break free from my own guilt, and because I wanted to share my story and hear it from another person’s emotions.”
The Vagina Monologues will be performed in February, featuring stories both from the original play and from the students themselves.
“It will make you laugh,” said Kyeremateng. “It will make you cry. It will make you question. It will make you angry. And it will make you uncomfortable. That’s how you know you’re learning. When you walk out and you think, ‘Wow, I never thought about it like that.’ I promise you, the production this year is going to blow your mind.”