Vagina Monologues calls for revolution
While it might not be uncommon for college students to talk about sex, pubic hair and their genitals in an inappropriate manner, students gathered last night to celebrate these topics and spark discussion about how they are portrayed in contemporary society.
The three-day Vagina Monologues event kicked off last night in the Livingston Student Center with this year's theme, “Revolution," the finished product of producer Kelly Beall and directors Kathleen Burns, Joie Deritis, Ashley Garner and Peggy Pazera Cooke.
The University's Office for Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance (VPVA) has been sponsoring and hosting the Vagina Monologues annually since 2010, said Brady Root, executive producer of the Vagina Monologues and Prevention Education Coordinator for VPVA.
All individuals involved with the show identify as women, Root said.
“Pretty much every year since 2010, we have cast of over 50 women," she said. "They are all Rutgers undergraduates or graduate students in New Brunswick."
The Vagina Monologues, written by Tony award-winning playwright Eve Ensler, is a collection of stories, interviews and real life experiences from women of all ages and walks of life from across the globe.
“It’s comedy, it’s heart warming, it's sad, it's tragic (and) it's angry," said Ashley Hemnarine, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. "It brings together everything that a woman is."
The Vagina Monologues is part of V-Day, a day dedicated to the global ceasing of violence against women and girls, which was also founded by Eve Ensler in 1997, Root said.
“I personally love the name, because I think the word (vagina) itself needs to be de-stigmatized,” she said.
Patricia Kmita, a Rutgers Class of 2014 alumna, said she appreciates how the Vagina Monologues encourages others to feel more comfortable with the word "vagina."
“I would never think about calling it that," Kmita said. "The word is usually a hush-hush. It’s cool. It says something."
The show aims to bring about female empowerment and freedom of expression, Root said.
“One of the ways of achieving that is by taking away that mentality of ‘Oh, I don’t know if I should say that word,'” she said. “It takes away some of the fear, and it builds up some of the power behind it, in a positively way.”
One hundred percent of the net event proceeds go to the Middlesex County Center for Empowerment, the county's rape crisis and intervention center in the county, Root said. The money directly benefits survivors of sexual violence.
Eve Ensler makes the play free so all money raised can be donated, Root said. The Vagina Monologues is performed in 140 countries and in 48 languages.
“Every other year up until now we‘ve sold out all three nights," Root said. "Last year we had a few over 900 people attending the event."
For this year’s show at Rutgers, there was a 1,200-person seat capacity over the course of three nights, Root said.
Eve Ensler writes and adds a main part of the show specific to each year, every year, Root said. For 2015, the addition is called “Revolution Begins In My Body.”
“It is really about taking back our bodies,” Root said. “We need to see revolutions.”
The Vagina Monologues wants to make women feel comfortable with speaking out about their experiences, she said. The show intends to make women feel more confident with their bodies and more positive toward sexualities.
The purpose is to make society a better place for survivors so they feel encouraged to come forward and ask for help and resources, as well as be able to tell stories without facing shame, stigma, fear and victim-blaming, she said.
This year, four new shows are written and added by the directors into the original program. These new features included micro-aggression, Islamophobia, the high rate of sexual violence on college campuses, as well as the importance of bringing stories forward.
Hemnarine said her part was a focus on Islamophobia and how society devalues Muslim Americans in addition to women.
There has been a 1,600 percent spike in hate crimes against Muslim Americans, a figure that indicates a five-time increase when compared to hate crimes before the 9/11 attacks, Hemnarine said.
“I think it’s great to be a part of production that wants to make a change,” Hemnarine said. “Not only does it (have) an idea to make a change, but it is actually going to make a change.”