Embracing Femininity

An early start to women’s history month, Hofstra University hosted their annual student-run production of “The Vagina Monologues” this past weekend. A play based on a series of more than 200 interviews conducted by playwright Eve Ensler, the show aims to increase awareness of women’s issues and to help bring an end to violence against women.

In addition to bringing attention to the problems faced by women around the world, the productions also help to raise money for local groups that work to stop violence against women. Hofstra’s performances raised money for the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Voices of Women Organizing Project.

The more than 20 student and faculty performers, all women in the Hofstra community, put on an enthusiastic and powerful performance for the packed theater on the second night of their three-day run. Along with the witty banter of the group dialogues, a series of somber monologues, as well as more amusing ones, were showcased.

One particular monologue, “My Vagina Was My Village,” focused on the crimes committed against the women of the former Yugoslavia, who were raped and beaten in Bosnian camps during the early 1990s. The story is that of one particular refugee, but the sentiments she expressed were shared by a number of the women Ensler interviewed in the region. A powerful tale of outrageous violence, the audience was shocked into silence by the emotions that the actors were able to get across. Anger, sadness, and pain took the place of the laughter that previous tales had permitted. The spotlight issue, a tradition of the V-Day movement, again focused on crimes against women in war zones, this time centering on the conflict in the Middle East.

In contrast, a number of monologues were uplifting and even amusing. “I Was There In the Room,” the story of the birth of Ensler’s grandchild, is the final monologue, and though it lacks the humor of previous tales, such as “Because He Liked to Look at It,” as well as the severity of others, it is powerful in its own right. Ensler is in awe of the birthing process and the actor portraying her in this production was able to get all of the emotion across. It was as if she were telling her own story, not retelling someone else’s.

One of the nation’s most revered feminists, Gloria Steinem, who wrote the foreword to the V-Day edition of “The Vagina Monologues,” considers the work one of great value. “Women’s sanity was saved by bringing these hidden experiences into the open, naming them, and turning our rage into positive action to reduce and heal violence,” Steinem wrote. “Part of the tidal wave of creativity that has resulted from this energy of truth telling is this play and book.”