“The Vagina Monologues,” a play about consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences as well as other social issues surrounding women specifically, was sponsored by Rebels Against Sexual Assault and presented Tuesday night at the Thad Cochran auditorium.
Written in 1994 by playwright and activist Eve Ensler, the play is based on dozens of interviews Ensler conducted with women and uses descriptive and metaphorical language in passages that detail the experiences of women from all backgrounds. It has been performed at Ole Miss in March, Women’s History Month, for the past several years and has been sponsored by the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies since 2014.
“I always think the topics ‘The Vagina Monologues’ covers are important topics that might not typically be talked about,” said Anna Hayward, community outreach coordinator for RASA. “We always put it on during Women’s History Month to strengthen that message and make sure that people know that we support women’s empowerment, body positivity, trans empowerment and LGBTQ+ empowerment as well as supporting women in general.”
The play, which was also sponsored by the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and the Associated Student Body, is presented in a series of monologues that deal with different aspects of the female experience, including infidelity, lesbian identity and sexuality from women’s perspectives. An all-female cast of seven delivers each monologue from a first-person perspective.
“‘The Vagina Monologues’ is a very powerful and impactful performance. The event provides support to survivors and a place for survivors to express themselves,” RASA President Colleen Fay said. “This is one of the main goals of our club, and every event we do works to create a campus culture that is supportive of survivors.”
The ultimate goal of the play is to make women feel empowered, according to the organizations that hosted it.
“There has been an increase in (sexual assault) reporting this year and throughout the semester, so that’s definitely a good thing,” Hayward said. “A lot of times, it’s viewed as scary that the number is going up, but it’s actually good because it means that not necessarily more sexual assaults are happening but that people feel more empowered to speak out and access their resources and get the help they need.”
Multiple RASA members also stressed the importance of men on campus attending productions like “The Vagina Monologues” because they believe that both men and women hearing the message can drive change.
“We have a really good mix of people to come out. It’s not typically more male or more female,” Hayward said. “I think that’s really important because that helps prevent our message from only getting to females and stopping there or only getting to males and stopping there. It helps everybody get the message.”
Diamond Jackson, a senior sociology major, said she left the performance feeling both impressed and inspired.
“It was more than I expected,” Jackson said. “When they broke it down into different scenarios and categories — I really liked that.”
Hayward hopes women in attendance were affected positively by “The Vagina Monologues.”
“I hope that women who watch the performance and are there for it leave feeling empowered and feeling positive about themselves and not ashamed of their bodies or afraid to be themselves, but to be strong women and empower other women,” she said.