Rows of women, all dressed in black, stood side-by-side in solidarity as they said “go with love” to the packed audience in Campbell Hall on Saturday night, February 10. This concluded the two day run of “The Vagina Monologues and Herstories 2018” performance last weekend.
“The Vagina Monologues” is a play authored by Eve Elser, a Tony award winning playwright, performer, and activist. During the month of February, the fees for the rights to the play are waived for parties who wish to do a production of “The Vagina Monologues” as part of V-Day, a global activist movement Elser created to help stop violence against women and girls. The UCSB Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe’s performance is one such production.
As the title indicates, the play is composed of a series of monologues that voice the experiences of women and shed light on issues of sex, love, violence, identity, and the vagina of course.
However, the original monologues are criticized for their lack of diverse representation, predominantly featuring the experiences of only white and cisgender women. “Herstories” is an addition from the UCSB Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe that features original monologues that UCSB students wrote.
As she performed the monologue titled “My Angry Vagina,” Gwen Anderson, a fourth year black studies major, aired out the innumerous discomforts women endure. When talking about dreaded annual exams, Anderson mimicked a doctor in a deep, monotone voice. “Scoot down, relax your vagina,” Anderson said. She then responded indignantly, “Why? So you can shove those mean cold duck-lips inside me? How about not!” The audience erupted into laughter and applause.
The vagina monologues varied in tone. While some monologues expressed their resistance through humor, other monologues were poignant in their sorrow and defiance, such as “My Vagina Was My Village,” which simultaneously portrayed a woman’s narrative before and after rape.
In between monologues, the master of ceremonies acknowledged that the UCSB Women’s Ensemble Theatre Troupe’s performance did not fully represent the experiences of all women. They encouraged women who identify as trans, non-gendered, and people of color to join next year’s production as performers and also share their experiences as writers to “Herstories.”
In “Give Me Space” — written and performed by four-year Vagina Monologue veteran and first year graduate student Alessandra Albanese — Albanese said, “I will never be small and I will not apologize. I will not cross my legs so that the man next to me can spread his.” The sounds of people finger snapping in agreement sprinkled throughout Campbell Hall.
The inclusion of “Herstories” allowed the audience to relate on even more levels, whether it was about size in “Give Me Space,” height in “The Animal Kingdom of Femininity,” skin color in “An Ode to the Shy Latina,” financial security in “I Don’t Have Sex with Men My Age,” or mental health in “Erotic Independence.”
The smattering of Gaucho-specific references throughout the monologues was also a great source of humor. As she performed “The Woman Who Liked to Make Vaginas Happy,” fourth year religious studies and theater major Rachel Gregory introduced “The Gaucho Moan.” As she writhed on stage, Gregory uttered, “Oh My god, ooh my god, we should totally get Freebirds after this!”
“The Vagina Monologue and Herstories” stands for women and also offers a healing moment and bridges the alienation that many women feel between their bodies in today’s society. There was relief and empathy in the laughter that the strong female performers aroused through their earnest engagement with this play.
As Albanese delivered the final lines of her monologue, her fellow performers lined up on the stage. “Fat and overweight women…Queer and Transgender women…Disabled women… Women of color…You are here,” the performers chanted together. “I am here. We are here. We deserve to take up space because this our world. This is our revolution and we are not going anywhere.”