Humor and reality used to raise money against gender violence

Forty-four women from the College – a couple professors, but mostly students – gathered on the stage of Kendall Hall with one common purpose: to talk about vaginas and raise money to eradicate gender violence in the process.

“The Vagina Monologues” is a performance written by Eve Ensler, a woman dedicated to stopping violence against women. It is based on her interviews with over 200 women who talk about all aspects of the vagina. The show has been performed in theaters all over the world and is now a Valentine’s Day tradition at the College.

“The Vagina Monologues” cover different types of stories, including women’s experiences with their first menstrual cycle, experiences being raped and assaulted during the war in Bosnia and discussions about “what your vagina would wear.”

The show offers humor and a reality check, with a very powerful message. “We perform the show to get the campus community involved about ending violence against women, so we try to get everybody aware of what happens to women,” Nina Davidson, junior English and women’s and gender studies major, said.

Davidson is also a member of Women in Leadership and Learning (W.I.L.L.) and co-director of the show. “I believe that violence against women can stop if enough people are mobilized,” she said.

The purpose of “The Vagina Monologues” is to get the word out about violence against women and, more importantly, to gather people to stand up against violence. W.I.L.L. organized this event, which has shown growing popularity over the years.

The show’s mistress of ceremonies this year was Honor Friberg, junior women’s and gender studies and Spanish major, who introduced each monologue. Following the introduction, representatives recited the stories of real women. All the stories were real accounts of women who finally got the chance to speak about their vagina.

“It’s to allow women to talk about their vaginas,” Mary Lynn Hopps, director of W.I.L.L., said. “Vagina is not a dirty word and it’s empowering to women.”

This is the fourth consecutive year the College has presented “The Vagina Monologues.” “It’s really important to me that I use my voice for a good cause and that women everywhere speak out against violence against women,” Christine Minerva, senior women’s and gender studies and sociology major, said.

At the end of the performance, “The Vagina Monologues” honors women and men in the community who make strides in ending violence against women and girls – these honorees are called Vagina Warriors. This year, Jackie Cornell, graduate student in the English department, Hopps and Anthony Milici, president of VOX which works to mobilize and educate the community about sexual health and reproductive rights, were among those honored.

“When I was first told I would receive this honor, it struck me that it doesn’t belong to me so much as to my groups,” Milici, junior English major, said. “This is their honor as much as mine.”

Milici is also president of the Bod Squad and treasurer of the Women’s Center at the College. “Vagina Warriors are women and men whose lives have been impacted by violence against women,” he said. “In some cases they have suffered violence, in others they have witnessed it, grieved it, been transformed by it, are assisting survivors or are working to prevent it from happening to other women in their communities.”

“The Vagina Monologues” is part of a large movement called V-Day. Through benefits and campaigns, V-Day raises awareness and funds to donate to community organizations helping women everyday. All the proceeds from the College’s presentation of “The Vagina Monologues” are given to women’s charities, including Womanspace, Inc. of Mercer County, The New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

“I think that (“The Vagina Monologues” are) also a good way to get out to the campus community and help people to realize that feminism is not man-hating or man-bashing, but it’s people-loving, and it’s about uniting all people that have the strength to want to learn about these things and then transfer it to activism,” Jill Appleheimer, senior women and gender studies major, said.