Story by Emma Wilson
Photo courtesy of Mallory Bonstrom
The Vagina Monologues took place Feb. 14-17 in Sussman Theatre. Before the monologues there was a carnival featuring chocolate vaginas, mocktails, a “make-your-own vagina” stand, a thrift shop and booths for Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE), Colleges Against Cancer and Monsoon.
Seniors Sheila Brassel and Caitlin O’Donnell directed The Vagina Monologues this year. Over the years, the monologues have come to be a “cornerstone of Drake programming,” said Brassel.
“(The Vagina Monologues) create a setting that fosters critical thought about the systems that disadvantage women,” Brassel said.
“(It is) nice (for women) to have things they’ve thought about or just talked about with their girlfriends finally acknowledged,” O’Donnell said.
The Vagina Monologues are a series of monologues written by Eve Ensler in 1996. It was first performed in Greenwich Village, New York and has now been translated into many different languages and performed all over the world.
The monologues range from funny to heartbreaking to empowering and bring to light many issues that are frequently pushed under the table by modern society, including sexual violence.
“(The) performances were really funny, but they also made me a lot more aware about sexual violence especially about how wide spread it is,” first-year Jaqui Branch said.
Branch’s favorite part was the end when audience members were asked to stand if they or someone they know had been a victim of sexual violence or abuse.
“One in four college women will be sexually assaulted,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell described how before seeing the monologues she didn’t realize how widespread sexual violence was but after the show she came to realize what a significant issue it was. This motivated her to educate others and push for change.
“Seeing ‘The Vagina Monologues’ made me more aware of what women in our society go through. I guess I didn’t know that women didn’t talk about their vaginas ever,” first-year Henry Carlson said after the performance.
The Vagina Monologues have met significant conservative backlash due to what critics view as unsavory content. Cast member Kylie Rush, junior, spoke of how even on Drake’s campus sexual violence is swept under the rug. She argues that Drake should be proud of the students on campus advocating for gender equality who “try to bring light to controversial issues.”
In response to critics, Brassel challenges them to actually see the monologues. Seeing the monologues often “. . . brings to most peoples’ minds new thoughts and new perspectives,” said Brassel.
Brassel believes that to create sustainable change in cultures around the world “. . . we need to really look at the entirely of women’s experiences and see how violence and sexism trickles down through the process.” Brassel challenges society to “empower women at all stages to try to move to end that sort of violence.”
The proceeds from the Vagina Carnival went to Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa, an organization offering services for women within the Asian community and beyond.
“They combat domestic violence issues, sexual assault, mostly by promoting social, economic and political self determination of women,” said Brassel.
Co-directors Brassel and O’Donnell hope that the Vagina Monologues will continue to inspire change at Drake and as O’Donnell said, make Drake a “more vagina-friendly campus.”