This past weekend, The Women’s and Gender Studies Program put on its annual performance of The Vagina Monologues, a 1996 play written by Eve Ensley. This marks the 10th anniversary of The V Monologues being performed at Boston College. The play has been a point of controversy ever since its first performance, especially for its presence at several Catholic Universities.
The Vagina Monologues is comprised of several monologues based off of interviews that Ensler had with around 200 women concerning sexuality and relationships. Ensler claims that she became interested in the topic because she felt that “women’s empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality” and that The V Monologues were an attempt to “celebrate the vagina”. The play has gone through several iterations over the years and each performance will often add its own slight adjustments, making each showing unique.
The proceeds brought in from the play’s many performances are usually donated to Ensler’s V-Day organization, which, according to its website, is “a global movement of grassroots activists dedicated to generating broader attention and funds to stop violence against women and girls.” In addition to V-Day, this year’s rendition of The Vagina Monologues at BC also sent some of its proceeds to My Life My Choice, an initiative of the Justice Resource Institute.
Despite its good intentions, the play has gained its share of critics over the years. One monologue in particular that has been strongly criticized is entitled “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could”. It depicts a woman who recounts the major events in her life involving her genitalia, the last of which being at the age of 16 (13 in the original script) when she had sexual relations with a 24 year old woman. The monologist describes the event and states that the 24 year old women was her “savior”. Many, such as feminist Wendy McElroy, have stated that this monologue portrays statutory rape in a positive light for the sole reason that a man is not involved.
The recent showing of the play at BC occurred over the weekend. The three performances were scheduled for last Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, however, due to the recent storm, the Friday and Saturday performances were re-scheduled for one on Sunday night. The show contained 17 separate monologues performed by a total of 24 BC students.
The Observer recently talked to Professor Sharlene Hesse-Biber, the director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Professor Hesse-Biber stated that she understood that there was a good deal of controversy surrounding the play and stressed the need for dialogue. When asked about the controversial ”Coochi Snorcher” monologue, Professor Hesse-Biber stated that people should not criticize the play by taking one monologue out of the context of the whole production.
The play has considerable support from academic departments within the university. This year, ten of BC’s academic departments co-sponsored The V Monologues, including the Sociology department, the English department, the History department, and the Communications department. The Observer reached out to Professors Suzanne Matson and Robin Fleming, the department chairs for the English and History departments respectively. Both Matson and Fleming declined an interview; however, they both released statements concerning their respective department’s decision to co-sponsor the play. Professor Matson told The Observer that “… Lending our name through co-sponsorship is our way of supporting initiatives of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, the students’ efforts, and the academic interests of our faculty who have participated.”
Despite criticisms, The Vagina Monologues continues to be a popular production among students and academic departments after ten years of its time at BC.
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