(Photos by Kelly Ocock)
How often are women heard openly talking to an audience about their vaginas? That is probably not the first topic pursued at the dinner table; however women are clearly eager and interested to broach the topic, as was exemplified during a student-run production of ‘The Vagina Monologues.”
This event took place at 7 p.m. Thursday – Saturday in the Fried-Hemenway auditorium. 29 students and two directors helped bring these monologues to life. Some were purely humorous, while others covered heavy topics like rape, the struggles of transgender women and genital mutilation.
“‘The Vagina Monologues’ were written in 1996 and came to Hope College in the mid-2000s,” Alissa Heynen (’18) said. It was not until last year, though, that they were able to move onto campus.
Initially, the show started out with an analysis of the word itself and how most people are not comfortable saying the word ‘vagina.’ The show was broken up into sections, by topics and statistics relating to the harsh realities and dangers women face around the world regarding sexual violence.
One impactful highlight was a monologue about rape and the mistreatment of African women over the centuries, where genital mutilation is most prominent. It was delivered with empathy and sadness over the forceful loss of innocence for thousands of women and young girls.
This production was brought to life by a vast number of people, students and staff alike. “Many hours went to emailing the cast, reaching out to panelists, answering questions from members of administration, planning auditions and rehearsals, and working to make sure all the loose ends got tied up before opening night!” Heynen said.
At a fairly homogenous place like Hope, having conversations that may be out of some peoples’ comfort zones is crucial. Hundreds of people attended “The Vagina Monologues” to hear and support these voices.
So how can students provide support to women and the various minority voices they encompass? “Ask questions, be curious, and be aware,” Heynen said. “Be open to new ideas and know that sometimes you have to put yourself in an uncomfortable position to learn.”
One thing was clear throughout the event: everyone in attendance was locked on to the monologues being presented. There was appropriate silence, laughter and clapping for the entire hour and a half. Afterward there was a question-and-answer to initiate more dialogue between the cast and audience members.
All of the proceeds were donated to CWIT (Center for Women in Transition). CWIT is a West Michigan organization that attempts to end domestic and sexual violence. This year, according to Heynen, over $1400 was raised to support these women in need. “The Vagina Monologues” are set to return next year.