It is almost always said in a hushed tone of voice, or not said at all. It is the kind of word that remains taboo no matter how much society seems to progress. There is one woman that embraces the word and celebrates its obscene connotations.
The word is vagina and the woman, Eve Ensler, has created a one-woman revolution that has been sweeping the nation for a number of years. She has created “The Vagina Monologues”, a book and stage play that deals with the stories of women from all around the world, as well as her own take on the part of the female anatomy that has caused the most controversy.
Her play is progressive, speaking of experiences and ideas that, until recently, have been considered taboo. Using blunt dialogue and sometimes violent stories, the play has traveled to many colleges and universities, working to open a generation of college students to new ideas and make them aware of the problem of violence against women.
However, while St. John’s students have tried to bring this play to the University, the efforts have been halted by the administration out of fear that such blunt dialogue will polarize audiences. However, it is such language that makes the play effective in delivering its message.
St. John’s is not the only Catholic university that has faced a moral dilemma when considering bringing “The Vagina Monologues” to campus. In 2006, the play was seen by 27 Catholic universities, all of which gave different reasons for allowing the play to be showcased on their campuses. As expected, there has been some controversy as to whether or not the play should be permitted at certain schools. Some question whether the material, which deals with sexual experiences and situations, is appropriate and others, such as St. John’s, question whether or not the message of stopping violence against women can be taught in a tamer manner.
It is the raw and sometimes vulgar language used in the show that is the center of its controversy. The word vagina is used 132 times throughout the show. There is a story from the point of view of a lesbian who is also an escort. There are also stories from women who are senior citizens and stories from women with odd sexual experiences that are all described in detail. It is not a show that always presents the morals and values that a Catholic university would like to promote for its students.
The performances, however, are not only effective in delivering the show’s message, but touching as well. Diverse audiences consisting of men and women of all races and nationalities have come to see the play about vaginas and have experienced a roller coaster of reactions from crying as a Bosnian woman recounted her rape to cheering at the new-found freedom to talk about their bodies and experiences without fear or hesitation. The most important aspect of the play, however, is its ability to create dialogue among audience members.
“The Vagina Monologues” is a catalyst for change. It forces people to look at society as a whole and at what needs to be changed in order for women to be comfortable with who they are.
Could this all happen without such language? Probably not. By using blunt dialogue, audiences are freed of the inhibitions and preconceived notions they have had about these issues, allowing an open and honest discussion. Is it a little vulgar?
Yes. However, that is exactly what it takes to break through the barriers and begin the repair on society and its treatment of women.
Bringing this play to St. John’s will help this generation by opening students’ minds and liberating them from the linguistic inhibitions that society has placed on them concerning sex and sexual violence. “The Vagina Monologues” will give this generation the tools needed to help fix the problem of violence against women and help them be more open-minded and active in the fight for change.