For some of us, February brings the promise of roses and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate; for others, the impending day of love brings no more than a few fruitless swipes on Tinder and a lonely Netflix binge. But while Valentine’s Day is ubiquitous, February also brings with it a less conventional, arguably more enjoyable tradition: “The Vagina Monologues.”
“The Vagina Monologues” is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, first performed in 1996. Christine Redor, a performer in Berkeley’s upcoming production, explained, “It’s feminist monologues surrounding social and political issues.”
One of the most important issues tackled by “The Vagina Monologues” is the stigma surrounding the word “vagina.” Cartoon penises are scrawled indiscriminately on any blank surface, from bathroom stalls to classroom desks, but most people cringe at the mere sound of the term describing female genitalia. Consequently, “The Vagina Monologues” attempts to lift the taboo on “vagina” by breaking the silence and actually talking about it.
Topics addressed in the monologues include sex, rape, menstruation, orgasm and the many common names for the vagina. One monologue, titled “Hair,” is a woman’s story of being forced to shave her vagina by her husband, despite not wanting to. She asserts, “You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair.” Another monologue called “I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me,” describes the experience of a girl’s first period.
Each year, Berkeley’s production chooses a specific theme. This year’s is “Redefining. Reframing. Reclaiming.” Redor broke down the meaning of the theme, explaining, “We’re redefining what it means to be a woman and to have a vagina.” The performers also intend to “reframe the way people think about vaginas and feminism,” Redor continued. And as for reclaiming – the word “cunt” is generally considered a derogatory term, but “The Vagina Monologues” strives to reclaim it, instead turning it into a term of empowerment.
This year, Julia Kulewicz, another performer, said, “There’s been a push to be as inclusive as possible.” This means keeping everyone in mind, from people of color to those who identify as genderqueer. Monologues have been added throughout the years to represent the voices of folks with disabilities and transgender women as well.
Most importantly, “The Vagina Monologues” aims to spread awareness about issues affecting women and inspire support and solidarity. The play benefits V-Day, an organization that raises money for groups working to end violence against women. All proceeds from UC Berkeley’s “Vagina Monologues” production are donated to local Bay Area organizations. So if you’re feeling a little over Valentine’s Day this year, maybe a little dose of comedy, empowerment and vagina love could be the perfect solution — and you can support a great cause while you’re at it.