Spring 2016 marked the first on-campus performance by Hope women of a collection of monologues by Eve Ensler entitled “The Vagina Monologues.” This year’s collection provides voice to a variety of women’s stories and experiences with their bodies and sexuality. This show has provided a safe place for 24 Hope women to gather together and discuss pressing topics about the position of women in today’s society, as well as their own personal concerns and questions that they taboo in everyday conversation. The women of the fourth annual monologues grew both as individuals and as a group, all having been impacted by their involvement in this show.
“Revolutionary,” Megan Clark (’19), cast member, said when asked to describe her experience with the monologues. She was a part of the first group of women allowed to hold the monologues on campus her freshman year, and she now appreciates the simple ability to “have good discussions and hang out with the women.” While these monologues have a controversial past on Hope’s campus, Clark addressed that “we need to have conversations about these things—especially in Christian campuses. People are so sheltered and so awkward about their own bodies—they think sex is wrong, or they think that being a woman is wrong or feeling proud of your body is wrong, and those are all things that we need to move forward to eradicate.”
“The Vagina Monologues” begin to tear down some of the negative socializations surrounding femninity— Clark said that “since I’ve started doing [the monologues], I’ve become more body positive about physical things that I didn’t love a couple of years ago. I still struggle with it sometimes, but having an open dialogue… has been good. You realize everyone has these things, and I’m not gross for being a person.” One thing that Emmie Sandstedt (’20) has discovered through her involvement as a cast member is that “The Vagina Monologues” are about “becoming comfortable with discomfort.” Joining the show as a freshman, it was a way for her to connect with women she “really looked up to and respected,” and she said that “it’s just been a really good community to have open conversations that I don’t really get to have in the real world.”
When Sandstedt was asked why she thinks that “The Vagina Monologues” are an important part of Hope’s community, she said “we think that talking about our sexuality or parts of our body is not okay, and it should be. Knowledge is power; knowing about our bodies, knowing about being empowered… why shouldn’t we talk about that?” The experience has changed Sandstedt and the way that she thinks about herself, and she wants that for others as well: “It’s made me proud to be a woman, proud to be with an amazing group of women that want to support each other, and I think we need more of that in our world.”
The two directors of “The Vagina Monologues”— Rachel Dion (’19) and Nina Kay (’19)— chimed in on what the performance has meant to them and the greater Holland community. Dion spoke on the controversy often surrounding the monologues, saying “I think even the title of the show can be a little taboo at times, and I think that shows why it’s needed on this campus.
There’s something really beautiful about women standing up and owning their voices to tell these stories of other women, and I think that the whole campus can learn from that.” Dion believes that the monologues “give women a space to foster unity and open up to each other.” Kay, a co-director, said, “I learned that there are still aspects of myself that I felt shame about. They didn’t occur to me until seeing other women talk about their experiences, realizing that, ‘Oh, that’s also my experience.’
I thought I was much more liberated than I was.” For Dion, directing the monologues was a way to expand her experience as a leader: “I have learned that, with an open mind and an open heart, you can learn so much from the people that you are leading. It’s like a give-and-take, and that’s something that’s really beautiful. It’s been really awesome to learn from these ladies in so many ways.” Shortly before the show’s closing night this past Saturday, Dion reflected: “[It] is just a really awesome thing that we get to bring to this campus.
I think it’s still a necessary piece of work here, and I am really proud to stand by it.” Dion shared that “it’s been a great honor to be able to direct [the show] and empower the women of Hope College in this way.” Through the process of directing “The Vagina Monologues,” Dion and Kay provided a space and platform for Hope’s women to feel justified, strong and valued.