By Dana Bitto
February 13, 2013
When one thinks of campaigns that are designed to bring awareness to violence against women, a play is not the first that may come to mind.
However, The Vagina Monologues is a play that does just that and has become just that. According to the play’s website, vaginamonologues.co.uk, “Ms. Ensler’s experience performing The Vagina Monologues inspired her to create V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women and girls,” adding, “she has devoted her life to stopping violence, envisioning a planet in which women and girls will be free to thrive, rather than merely survive.”
V-Day, as stated on the site, “Stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women.”
Since the play’s debut in a New York café in 1996, it has been translated into over 48 languages and performed in over 140 countries, as well as an HBO film in 2002. Although the play’s author, Eve Ensler, has gained many awards and global recognition for the Vagina Monologues, there has also been controversy over the play’s content.
The Cardinal Newman Society, a conservative watchdog group for Catholic higher education, has become one of the largest advocates for getting rid of the play, hosting protests against it for years.
In response to auditions for the Vagina Monologues at Georgetown University, a Catholic institution, the Newman Center wrote on their website’s blog that, “The obscene play distorts human sexuality by placing sinful activity in a favorable light…It seems to take delight in reducing sexuality to the satiation of selfish pleasure…”
In an interiew, the center’s Director of Communications, Adam Wilson, added, “While the creators and participants in The Vagina Monologues may be well-intentioned, the lewd language of the play undermines this. The content of much of the play is contrary to the virtues of modesty and chastity which Catholics and all Christians are called to live up to.”
Wilson also feels that there are alternative methods to opposing violence against women at catholic schools.
“There is a serious conversation about violence against women that can and should take place on Catholic campuses. Take for example the Edith Stein Conference that happens each year at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, The Vagina Monologues trivializes the serious conversation that should take place on this topic by relying heavily on vulgarity.”
However, in response to the upcoming performance of the Vagina Monologues at Dominican, students and faculty have envisioned a more positive outcome.
Director of University Ministry, Shannon Green, believes that the play is part of important dialogue.
“The arts are an important way for us as a university to explore difficult and painful topics, including violence against women. I hope the production enables us to have greater dialogue and education around these issues,” Green said.
Lisa Petrov, Head of Dominican’s Spanish Department and member of the cast, is a vast supporter of the play and its content.
“Part of our motto is to ‘pursue truth’, is it not? The vagina is fundamental to the truth of life. Every single last one of us owes our life to a woman’s vagina,” Petrov said.
Petrov also believes that women have a power that has been devalued over time.“ This male-dominated world has tried to marginalize and render inconsequential the truth of the power of the vagina. As a life-long feminist, I feel it’s my responsibility to fight against that however I can,” Petrov said.
Freshman and a performer in the Vagina Monologues, Rosalie Matta, echoes the support for the play.
“I would call this unique, factual, fun and inspiring. This is a topic that talks about rape, war, lesbians and of course, vaginas. But this show goes beyond those topics, it brings awareness and I feel that Dominican University will welcome the Vagina Monologues to bring more diversity on campus from the theatre department,” Matta said.
Whether it is the first or fifth time the audience has seen the Vagina Monologues performed, surely everyone will leave the production with a newfound knowledge of Eve Ensler’s mission and the V-Day campaign.
As Matta said, “Ensler constantly brings new stories to the show, presenting new stories of violence which shows the audience that the issue is still happening and should still be discussed.”