Eve Ensler: The Revolutionist Behind V-Day

By Maggie Pool

Trigger warning: mentions of sexual abuse.

In 2006, New York Times writer Charles Isherwood proclaimed The Vagina Monologues to be “probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade.” What are these monologues you ask? The Vagina Monologues is a play written by Eve Ensler based off a interviews she did with two hundred women about their experiences involving sex, relationships, and the violence they may have experienced during those interactions.

Eve Ensler was born in New York City in 1953 to a Jewish father and Christian mother and is the middle child out of two brothers. From the time she was five to ten, Ensler’s father physically and sexually abused her. Ensler reflected back on how she felt in this time of her life: “very sad, very angry, very defiant. I was the girl with the dirty hair. I didn’t fit anywhere.” Ensler attended Mitterbury College in Vermont, and her experiences forged her loyalty to feminist ideals, but her encounters with gender-based violence continued. She graduated and unfortunately was abused in several different relationships, which led to dependency on drugs and alcohol. Ensler eventually went to rehab and no doubt was inspired by all these previous events to create her most known work, The Vagina Monologues.

When the play premiered in 1996, many women would linger after each showing to unload the weight of their own experiences that had been choking them into silence for years. As if struck by lightning, Ensler realized what she created wasn’t just a play of entertainment, but a movement that masses of mistreated women felt deep in their hearts, something that rang a bell and called for action.

The V-Day movement was born on Valentine’s Day in 1998, when Ensler held the first V-Day event: a benefit concert that raised $250,000 in one evening. And that was just the beginning. The official V-Day website puts it well: “What began as one event in New York City in 1998 today includes over 5,800 V-Day events annually.” What is the overall mission of the V-Day movement that people are so inspired to be a part of? It’s a simple one. It’s a demand that violence against women must end. V-Day tackles gender-based violence by having groups around the world put on a performance of The Vagina Monologues (and other V-Day related works). These performances work to raise awareness, and all the proceeds collected during the event are donated to projects or programs that also have the goal of ending violence against women and girls.

The Vagina Monologues has won over twenty different awards and recognitions, but, of course, it is more than just an award-winning play. It is a movement that will undeniably continue to spread like wildfire as the world becomes more aware of gender-based violence. Women and girls, every year, walk an Earth in which they are taught to fear their gender. The lessons of V-Day inspire others to free these innocent women from the abuse of gender-based violence. Hopefully, one day, we can all exist in harmony and respect everyone, no matter who they are, what they look like, or how they identify.

A Theatre Minor’s Thoughts on the Vagina Monologues

By Kyra Charles

Last year, I caved to the advertisements around campus for the Vagina Monologues and went to go see it. I hadn’t a clue what to expect. Two dozen women, most of whom I didn’t know, walked onto the stage and started talking about sex, masturbation, birth, surgery, violence, and most importantly, their vaginas. It was a remarkably intimate space, one that made me laugh, shudder, and ultimately feel more hopeful. I ended up staying for the Q & A and wishing I’d bought a vagina pop before they’d sold out.

This year, I auditioned and was accepted for a role in the show. This is my first time ever performing in the Vagina Monologues. I’m a theatre minor with emphasis in acting, and a relative of mine called it my “first big production” I’m nervous, not from stage fright, but because my parents and possibly more of my family will try to attend, and none (except for my mother) are comfortable with saying the word “vagina” This might be the rawest, most vulnerable show I’ve been in yet.

Being an actor and performing in the monologues seems obvious, and yet doesn’t feel that way. Many of the other performers are locals who identify more as students and business women than actors. Most of my friends in the theatre department are working on other, more extravagant productions. The rehearsals are shorter because of the cast size, the lines aren’t required to be memorized, and the show itself is less of a play and more of a compilation of essays. Sometimes I wonder how it would look professionally on my acting resume.

That isn’t to say I feel any regret about my involvement. What other people say and think is not important to why I’m doing the Vagina Monologues. This show does everything it can to be about everything involving vaginas. It creates a feeling that you aren’t alone. Outside of the monologues, vaginas are often treated as dirty, subpar and submissive to other forms of genitalia, or even monstrous (like the facehuggers in Alien). But in that theatre, among the audience of people who want to talk about vaginas and their inherently controversial existence, there’s a reassurance that you aren’t alone. I adore these stories with my entire heart.

Although I identify as cisgender, I will be part of a monologue that tells the story of a trans woman and her struggle to be comfortable with her identity. I’m not trying to be this woman, but I want to do my best in being an outlet for her story, from her dreams to her darkest moments. Part of being an actor is paying attention to the details of what a character says and gaining a better understanding of them. It’s a psychological assessment that brings that person, fictional or otherwise, to life onstage. There are thousands of trans women around the world that are going through what this unnamed woman does, and the least I can do is relay her story with respect. Her experiences are not mine, but I truly believe she needs to be heard.

Acting in the Vagina Monologues has been a mix of excitement, nerves, and determination. I’m unsure of the reaction from my family or the audience or any future director I’ll be working with, but I want to give this show my all. Maybe I’ll even audition for it again after I graduate. The Vagina Monologues continues to exist for their relevance, brutal honesty, and ultimate beauty. I hope everyone who reads this blog will come see the show, whether they have a vagina or not. I’m ready for whatever this show will bring me (though I really hope it’ll include a vagina pop).

The Vagina Monologues are right around the corner!

By Michelle Lawson

The Vagina Monologues is a tradition here at the Women’s Center, and we are getting ready for our annual performance coming up on February 27th. This year we are excited to announce that we have a massive cast of 41 passionate, and strong women, who are ready to take on the Vagina Monologues. Our cast consist of women from all walks of life, from veteran performers to Vagina newbies. These Students, alumni, and community members all have one thing in common, their dedication to ensuring women’s voices are heard. And that’s really what the monologues are all about, creating a platform for women’s voices, and stories to be heard.

The Vagina Monologues are just one aspect of V-day, which is a global movement to end gender based violence started by Eve Ensler (who wrote the monologues). This movement started because women were sick of the way they were treated, they were sick of the way they were overlooked, abused, and neglected. This play is here to nurture, to listen, and to advocate for women. That is why I am so proud to be able to work on this project. And I am bringing the, energy, passion, and love that women deserve with me. As every day passes I am becoming more and more excited to bring this piece to an audience. I am excited to fill a room with hundreds of women of all different backgrounds to talk about Vaginas.

I strongly encourage that you put February 27th into your calendars, and make an effort to join us in this experience. I can promise that there will be laughter, sadness, anger, vulgarity, community, and hope. Hope for the future in a time where we all need as much as we can get.

The 2019 Vagina Monologues

By Mackinzie Aulgur

“…find freedom, aliveness, and power not from what contains, locates, or protects us, but from what dissolves, reveals, and expands us.”- Eve Ensler

We all deserve to be ourselves, stand up for what we believe in, and voice our opinions; each and everyone one of us. This Thursday and Friday, February 21st-22nd, UMKC will be presenting the Vagina Monologues! Doors open at 7pm and performances will take place at 7:30pm. This year the monologues will have 18 presenters, all of which play vital parts. The Vagina Monologues are personal monologues read by a diverse group of women in our community. Their stories will touch on subjects such as sex, sex work, body image, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and various names for the vagina. The main theme in the play is redefining the vagina to be seen as a symbol of female empowerment and the embodiment of our individuality (Mission, 2019).

In collaboration with V-Day, we will be selling our famous vagina pops (milk and dark chocolate), t-shirts, feminist mugs, Trailblazers’ blend coffee, and a variety unique of buttons before and after the performances. For those who may not know, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls. In fact, according to the United Nations, one of every three women on the planet will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime (Mission, 2019). While we cannot change the past, we have the opportunity to come together as a community, to show support and raise awareness for a better future. Please join us at this years Vagina Monologues as we all reflect on what unifies us in our fight for this goal.

Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vday.org/mission.html

Thursday, February 21. UMKC Student Union Theater, 5100 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $25 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $30 for non-students

Friday, February 22. UMKC Spencer Theater, James C. Olson Performing Arts Center, 4949 Cherry St. 

  • Advance tickets: $10 for students, $35 for non-students, $5 each for groups of 5 or more students
  • At the door: $15 for students, $40 for non-students

Tickets may be purchased through Central Ticket Office. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC’s Women’s Center, Violence Prevention and Response Program and V-Day’s 2019 spotlight campaign.

 

Upcoming Event: Feminist Film Friday

By Megan Schwindler

Coming up on Friday, February 9 from 12-2 pm, the UMKC Women’s Center is sponsoring Feminist Film Friday: Until the Violence Stops. This event is co-sponsored by the Violence Prevention and Response Program. The event will be held at the UMKC Women’s Center, in 105 Haag Hall. RSVP’s are necessary for this event.

End your week enjoying a movie and some free pizza with the staff at the Women’s Center. This week’s movie is a documentary about the start and success of The Vagina Monologues and the V-Day Movement. RSVP to umkc-womens-center@umkc.edu or 816-235-1638 by February 7.

We hope to see you there!

Coming up: V-Men Workshop

vmenby Thea Voutiritsas

The fight to end violence against women is not merely a female issue; it’s a human dilemma. Men’s voices are an important part of the dialogue. On Wednesday, February 8, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.  in the Atterbury Student Success Center, Room 237, 5000 Holmes St., join a group of dedicated V-Men and participate in a conversation about ending violence against women and girls. This workshop is open to only those who identify as male. Pizza will be provided. Co-sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program, UMKC Student Auxiliary Services, and UMKC Men of Color Initiative.

 

What the ({V}) is V-Day and Why does it Matter?

by Matiara Huff

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play by Eve Ensler. The plays are based on the stories of over 200 women who Eve interviewed around the world. It started with conversations with friends about the injustices that people with vaginas face. It evolved into finding deep connections to women all over the world facing uniquely similar issues. Each monologue is about a different aspect of the feminine experience, tackling subjects like sex, love, rape, menstruation, female genital mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, and vaginas. vday17logoAll performances are non-profit and all money earned goes toward groups working to end violence against women and girls. Over $100 million has been raised by this event so far.

The Vagina Monologues spawned a global movement called V-Day. V-Day surrounds The Vagina Monologues to promote awareness and raise money for organizations working to end violence. Hence the slogan, “Until the Violence Stops.” There have been performances all over the world, and that includes UMKC.

Be sure to see the show and support local organizations working against violence. It will be in the UMKC Student Union Theater on Thursday, February 16 at 7pm. Tickets are now available to purchase through the Central Ticket Office.

V-Day UMKC presents benefit screenings of Until the Violence Stops

vday-2014-450x232pxV-Day UMKC 2017 will be presenting benefit screenings of Until the Violence Stops. The film documents the start and success of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues Join us this Tuesday, January 31 from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. in the Oak Street Residence Hall basement, 5051 Oak St.; or on Saturday, February 4, 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. at the Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, 4801 main St., KCMO. Donations accepted. Proceeds from all activities benefit the UMKC Women’s Center and V-Day 2017’s spotlight campaign. Co-sponsored by the UMKC Violence Prevention & Response Program, UMKC Masters of Social Work Student Organization, UMKC Residence Life, and Kansas City Public Library.

An Open Letter from your Vulva

by Danielle Lyons

Hey,

It’s me, your Vulva. Perhaps you and I got off on the wrong foot. I feel as if I get a bad rap or am known for being gross. Even Erin Mckelle from Everyday Feminism says, “We’ve created an entire culture around what vulvas are ‘supposed’ to look like, leaving a huge portion of the vagina-having population feeling less-than.” I feel like our relationship is a bit lacking. I was hoping to better that. Maybe get to know each other better. Because let’s face it, I’m a part of you. Literally. Let’s reacquaint ourselves shall we?

Diagram_showing_the_anatomy_of_the_vulva_CRUK_285.svg

By Cancer Research UK (Original email from CRUK) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There are some things that you should know about me. Now, don’t be intimidated, I’m just going to tell you what I’m made of. You’ll notice my Mons Pubis, which is the fatty tissue covering the pubic symphysis. Then we have the Labia Majora and Labia Minor. Often referred to as the inner and outer lips. Then, of course, the stars of the show are the vaginal opening and the clitoris. Last but certainly not least is the urethra and the anus. Not too scary huh? If you’re still yearning for some more information about me, hop on Our Bodies Ourselves. They have a pretty nifty diagram and extensive information.

Let’s face it, there is a certain ideal that vulvas are held to. That ideal is usually compact, hairless and delicate looking. Which is a total crock. We vulva’s come in many different colors, shapes sizes and haircuts. Unfortunately, that diversity is hardly recognized or represented. This leaves so many women pondering the question, “Do I have an ugly vulva?” Hannah M. Brasswell of Bleeding Feminism agrees, “Lack of information leaves many young (and old!) people under the impression that there’s something “wrong” or “abnormal” about their vulvas.” So, if you’re worried about how I look, don’t! I’m unique in my own right. Ignore all the hype. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with how I look. I’m downright amazing, no need to be ashamed.

Sincerely,

Your Vulva