"The Vagina Monologues" was performed on campus for the first time in the history of Gonzaga University last Sunday, completing the weeklong Monologues, Dialogues, & Stories event and a year of contention over the event.
This series of discussions and performances was intended to discuss women's narratives, violence against women, Catholic identity, "The Vagina Monologues" and the interrelation of all these in an academic and educational environment.
This week of events opened April 4 with a forum entitled "Voices on ‘The Vagina Monologues,' Catholic Tradition, and Jesuit Identity."
According to Meghan Yee, a senior political science major at Gonzaga and one of the student organizers and directors of the event, this particular dialogue was intended to prompt discussion on the Monologues and their place in a Jesuit community. "This topic is typically the big topic of controversy when discussing an on-campus production of ‘The Vagina Monologues,'" Yee said. This was followed on April 6 with "Learning to Speak: The Power of Narratives," an exploration into the power of personal narrative and the authentic identity one may experience through participation in personal narrative.
Yee notes that both these panel discussions were controversial and at times inflammatory. "The earlier panel discussions did get pretty heated at some points," she said. However, she further explained that such controversy is necessary in order to accomplish the goal of Monologues, Dialogues, & Stories. "‘The Vagina Monologues,' and perhaps Monologues, Dialogues, & Stories as a whole, raises dissenting voices," Yee said.
Dr. Patsy Fowler, an assistant professor of English and director of Women and Gender Studies at Gonzaga, said some of this controversy may have arisen from misconceptions regarding the purpose of the panels. "Sometimes panels were criticized for failing to do things they were never intended to do," Fowler said. However, she further emphasized the importance of discussion on Gonzaga's campus. "The events were not perfect," she said. "But they were vital in initiating a crucial conversation regarding what it means to be a university, particularly a Catholic, Jesuit university."
The capstone to this week of events occurred Sunday, April 10, with the first performance of "The Vagina Monologues" at Gonzaga, in Wolff Auditorium. Beginning with a reminder that the performance was to be civil and respectful, not a place for "grandstanding or reaffirming a sense of righteousness," the performance entailed women telling stories about or in relation to their vaginas, varying from narratives of rape and violence to love and connection to confusion and misunderstanding. After the performance, the cast stayed for a question and answer session regarding their parts in the performance and the performance's place in the overall event of Monologues, Dialogues, & Stories.
Lindsay Fague, a sophomore majoring in biology and Spanish, had not seen or read "The Vagina Monologues" before the performance last Sunday. "I was pretty on the fence," she said regarding her decision to go. Having seen the performance, she also believes the Monologues help the cause against female sexual abuse, but that some monologues were offensive or inappropriate.
"The village one gave me chills," she said, citing the monologue "My Vagina Was My Village," a story regarding a Bosnian woman who was brutally raped, mutilated and abused during the Bosnian crisis in the 1990s. "It's extremely important for women to hear about," she continues. "We think these things don't happen."
Fague further notes, however, some validity to the claim that "The Vagina Monologues" reduces women to merely an organ. She notes the monologue "Because He Liked to Look At It," saying that it seemed "loving that part of you was the only way to be a woman." She noted several objectives she saw from the Monologues. "One is just to get people OK with talking about their bodies," she said. "The more important point was violence against women." However, she said, some monologues "missed the point," and she can easily see how some people would see "The Vagina Monologues" as purely reductionist.
There will be another event from this series Monday, April 18, in Jepson at 5:15 p.m. entitled "Catholics and Bodies: Implications for a ‘Catholic' University." There will also be an event Tuesday, April 17, in the Barbieri Courtroom in the Law School at 7 p.m. titled "A Conversation on Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body." Both of these will discuss the Catholic views on the body and its values in human activity. n