Raise your glass: In Vagina Veritas
I came home through Tappan Square, skillfully riding along on the margins of a conversation about various genital piercings. Not my usual choice in topics. As the students just leaving that evening’s performance of the Vagina Monologues spoke in short gusts cut short by the wind, a more active square sat momentarily startled out of its winter cold crustiness. I felt the Oberlin-ness, the Oberlinity, I suppose, of the evening. In the talk, in the feel, everyone was charged and ready. Ready for women’s rights, ready for girl power, ready to talk about it, ready for sex.
I had walked in at 8 p.m. last Saturday to a good-sized crowd and an amusing yet bland coffee shop, with love-me-now music playing in the background. The lights dimmed, and the cast, dressed entirely in tasteful, attractive red and black, assembled on stage.
As the show’s title would suggest, it consists of a series of monologues, based on the words of real women. The production is a response to violence toward women, and hopes to create awareness of this issue through its direct, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious language. The actresses spoke honestly, unflinchingly, not at all shy about the subject at hand, an important trait for the delivery of ideas, ones rarely verbalized in the world outside liberal college campuses.
They dove right in by noting the number of slang terms used for vagina: “horse spot,” “mushmellow,” “happy dugout,” and for Oberlin’s own women’s dorm, Baldwin, “maneater.”
The first monologue, performed by junior Nickie Hill, focused on acceptance of the whole.
“You can’t pick the parts you want,” said the character, relating a story about a troubled relationship where her husband had an affair because she would not
A barrage of words describing what women’s vaginas would wear followed, delivered in a way similar to the opening: “A tutu,” “taffeta ball gown,” “something machine-washable,” “sweat pants” and “electrical shock device to keep unwanted strangers away,” were just a few.
The second monologue, dedicated to a 72-year-old woman, was delivered by sophomore Abigail Dillon, as a woman who had neither seen nor felt her vagina before. She spoke of it as a cold place, saying it was “clammy down there.”
“It’s like a cellar – animals get stuck there,” she commented.
First year Julia Leeman’s character explained an orgasm with amazing analogous language, putting the vagina and femininity on a level that fit and connected with the rest of the world that we are a part of in our everyday lives. Her vagina was a “muddy pond bottom;” reaching orgasm was like an “astronaut quietly re-entering the atmosphere,” and the final moment was an “eruption onto an ancient horizon of life.”
The delivery was fresh and almost innocent, conveying the reality of the statements. Leaving behind the hush-hush attitude that usually surrounds sexuality, these women were speaking in a way that is new to society.
We tend to promote an open dialogue on all kinds of issues here on campus. These monologues had me believing that theatre is a powerful way to include larger groups of people successfully.
Audience participation was encouraged with the “Vagina Happy Fact.” When an audience member yelled “clit,” freshman Christina James would enthusiastically recite facts about one specific part of the vagina: the clitoris. She relayed that it is pure in purpose, being the only part of the body that exists only for pleasure. With 8,000 nerve fibers, it contains twice as many as the penis.
The constant male-bashing slowed for the next monologue, which chronicled a woman’s good experience with a man. Senior Satoko Kanahara’s character. a “connoisseur of vaginas,” enjoyed looking at her vagina, which in turn, turned her on. I was glad to see a positive experience with the opposite sex included, for it seems to me that we can sometimes get lost in our extreme feminism to the point where we are not making men and women equally wonderful in different ways, but instead, villainizing the male sex, which just doesn’t seem right.
The most emotionally concentrated part of the production arrived with a monologue by a girl from Kosovo, where 130 million girls and women were raped and/or mutilated in some way. A silence cleared the air in the chapel. Junior Jessica Scharff’s voice was silent, too, pain allowing the words to be heard by our ears.
The imagery in this speech created a picture of something entirely whole and honest before it was destroyed and became fantastic, too horrible to be real using normal levels of reason. Her “life, wet water village,” was invaded, reducing her vagina to a place where you, “do not touch, do not visit.”
Intermission let this message fall into our heads and gave us a chance to pick ourselves back up with ideas of change.
We were promptly installed back in our seats by a fiery monologue called “My Vagina’s Angry.” Actress Courtney Patterson’s delivery was both amusing and threatening at the same time, raging about all the things women try to shove up there, the unfortunate choice of the thong, and rejecting the delicacies often allowed for this particular part of the body.More energy was expended with a bit on short skirts, claiming the right for them to be for fashion and nothing else.
“My short skirt doesn’t have anything to do with you,” said sophomore and director Alexa Punnamkuzhyil.
She was followed by a provocative speech given by freshman Andrea Lerner that pretty much involved the woman getting more and more excited as she spoke about what she wanted.
Reaching the end of the show, a child’s perspective was given. Imagination and pure thought came through here, as the vagina was described to be “a turtle,” “a violin,” or a “pretty, dark peach.”
“Somewhere deep inside it has a really smart brain,” claimed sophomore Danielle Koplinka-Loehr. hiding beneath a backwards baseball cap. “It smells like snowflakes.”
The show itself climaxed with a sex worker who described various kinds of moans, demonstrating them all, including a poke at Oberlin students by including the “Oberlin moan:” “I consent!” The audience was particularly responsive to this monologue.
Finally, the show drew the line between the vagina and birth, relaying a shocking moment when a confused man asked, “What’s the connection?”
First-year Raquel Font-Soloway played a mother watching her daughter give birth. She described the doctor walking in with “Alice in Wonderland spoons” to aid the “wide pulsing heart” of the baby’s head in leaving its mother.
The birth seemed pretty appropriate for the end of the show, as we, the audience, all were simultaneously giving birth to ideas and opinions on all the information that had just been presented to us. And well presented at that.
The Vagina Monologues succeeded in touching all the hidden crevices of
the mind, perhaps even some that would have rather been left alone. But
it’s healthy, the thoughts are out, and now, there is time for us to
respond and spread the word.