BY CAITLIN CLEMENT
Student Activists for Gender Equity (SAGE) performed the Vagina Monologues for the last time this past weekend. SAGE said the monologues struggled to be inclusive of marginalized voices by misrepresenting some genders, ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic statuses and more.
“When the Vagina Monologues were first performed, it was a kind of rallying cry for women and marginalized folks to talk about their experiences,” said Paxton Gillespie, a junior SAGE member.
However, what may have been inclusive in the ‘90s has since broadened to include other genders and sexualities not included in the monologues, such as the transgender community.
“We feel it would be better for Drake’s campus if we wrote … what better fit our students and didn’t exclude people or tokenize people,” said Emily Bauer, sophomore SAGE member. “While there is definitely an importance to the Vagina Monologues … it’s outdated and we need to move on.”
Included in the director’s notes on the pamphlet handed out at the beginning of the show, Isabelle Barrett commented on the cancellation of further Vagina Monologues, explaining her effort to bring more inclusion into the show.
“My hope is that we continue to be critical of ourselves and our politics every year until there is no more tokenization or erasure,” Barrett said.
In the effort towards inclusion of the transgender community, SAGE did a monologue called “They Beat the Girl Out of My Boy (Or So They Tried).” It was performed for the first time in 2004 by an all transgender cast. It gives an insider’s view into the community and these folks’ experiences in a society that doesn’t understand or accept what they believe to be true.
The Vagina Monologues were written in the ‘90s by Eve Ensler and consists of topics such as consensual and non-consensual sexual experiences, body image, encounters with reproduction, sex work and other various topics. It presents stories from women of various ages, races and sexualities in an effort to get a global perspective.
With these thoughts in mind, Ensler incorporated the monologues of WWII Japanese comfort women. These women were tricked into a false sense of security then brutally raped and beaten by the soldiers of the Japanese army. It gave a look into what such an experience had done to them, not just physically, but mentally.
The monologues were also meant to address controversial topics due to their more gruesome natures. One such topic discussed at the show was female genital mutilation, a practice that can cause recurrent infections, development of cysts, chronic pain and an inability to get pregnant.
Gillespie said such topics were meant to make people think about gender stereotypes and the patriarchal society that has made up so much of history. It also provides those who have experienced trauma to hear their words through a script, to hear it through other women’s voices.
“They (Vagina Monologues) provide experiences for them (the audience) to process their own trauma … like the gender violence that has happened to them, they’re able to speak through these other voices that are already written,” Gillespie said.
In addition to the monologues, there was a carnival at the beginning, middle and end of the show that offered auction items, tarot card readings and informational tabling from Planned Parenthood and Pure Romance. They also offered free condoms to students.
During the intermission, there was also a poetry jam session in Sheslow Auditorium where anyone who wanted to could express themselves by reading poems about topics they deemed important.
The proceeds from this carnival and ticket sales are benefiting Dorothy’s House, a recovery home in Des Moines for girls ages 14-17 who were victimized and exploited by sex trafficking.