‘The Vagina Monologues’ to be performed in Spaulding tonight

by Madeline Killen | 2/9/16 6:01pm

tTonight’s performance of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” marks the 18th consecutive year of the performance at Dartmouth as part of V-February, the College’s annual campaign for gender equality and sexual violence awareness during the month of February. In the show, 22 self-identifying women will perform the monologues in Spaulding Auditorium.

Appropriately, with the piece’s 18th birthday comes a level of self-reflection and self-awareness, said director Lauren Budd ’18. Budd notes that there are a number of problematic elements in “The Vagina Monologues.”

“One of the most glaring things is that same-sex relationships between women are not really portrayed well in this show,” Budd said. “We have a couple, but one of them is a sex worker and one is an older woman who has a sexual relationship with a much younger girl.”

Co-director Kyra Guillemin ’19 wanted to get involved with the show because of her past familiarity with “The Vagina Monologues” through personal reading and research and because of her passion for fighting gender inequality and violence. Like Budd, she critiqued the above monologue, called “The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could.”

Although in the original play the ages of the characters are 13 and 24, this version she portrays them as 16 and 24.

“This is really the only lesbian relationship in it and there is already a historical viewpoint of the ‘gay predator,’ so I don’t know that it does things to reject that stereotype,” Guillemin said.

Both directors also find a monologue from the point of view of a transgender woman, called “They Beat the Girl out of my Boy...Or so They Tried,” problematic. Budd said that this monologue is a fairly recent addition to the show and was added to address the criticism that “The Vagina Monologues” did not do enough service to transgender women.

Budd said that although she felt the monologue was a step forward for women, she felt that there was still a lot of reliance on stereotypes of trans people and femininity.

“There are lines that are along the lines of ‘Growing up, I wanted to be a woman so badly,’ and now that they’re taking hormones and acting soft and gentle, they are women,” Budd said.

Budd added, “I really am not a big fan of attaching womanhood to your vagina, because that’s literally what misogynists do, and that’s literally what we hate to see, and yet we do that in this particular monologue.”

Co-director Guillemin said that the play could incorporate more from transgender perspectives. She said that although there are some positive aspects of the monologue, it reinforces some negative stereotypes about the correlation between genitals and gender.

“[In the monologue] the character doesn’t really become a woman until she undergoes gender reassignment surgery,” Guillemin said.

However, both directors agree that “The Vagina Monologues” is more productive than destructive, and that the majority of topics it touches on are important either as salient issues in 2016 or to provide historical context about the fight for gender equality. Both directors also note that there is an optional “talkback” after the show that allows audience members to express concerns about the content of any of the monologues.

Budd appreciates the way that the show changes people’s perspectives year after year and gives people a forum to discuss these kinds of conversations.

“Some people who saw it last year, and who will see it this year — it will change their perspectives,” Budd said. “Not everyone comes to college with a perfect knowledge of feminism or intersectionality; not everyone has that same base of knowledge.”

Guillemin appreciates how the issues talked about in the show remain relevant today. She said that the play remains “a tenet of feminist theater."

After attending the show last year, Gricelda Ramos ’18 felt the show presented valuable and relevant stories. She said that last year’s show inspired her to audition this winter.

“I felt that it spoke to me as a woman,” Ramos said.

She also urges anyone who has already seen “The Vagina Monologues” to attend the performance again this year.

“It’s like when people read the Bible or read an old book again — they’ll pick up pieces that didn’t necessarily relate to them then but relate to them now,” Ramos said. “I think even if you saw this show last year, you can find pieces that may be even more relatable at this point in your life than where you were last year, because the piece, while it may have a written script set in stone, is always going to be fluid because you are never the same as you were yesterday.”

Budd added that the beauty of the show comes from its ability to spark conversation on campus and how many different people can relate to the show.

“I think even if you’re a gender studies major, you can still use it as a jumping-off point to discuss what’s wrong with it and what’s good about it, ” Budd said.

“The Vagina Monologues” will be performed at 7 p.m. in Spaulding Auditorium. It is free for Dartmouth students and $10 for community members.

Budd is a member of The Dartmouth Staff.