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Students celebrate sexuality in The Vagina Monologues

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Natalie Miller (left), Emily Rush, and Savannah Garber (right) perform as part of the Vagina Monologues hosted by the Pitt Campus Women’s Organization in the O’Hara Student Center this weekend. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

Natalie Miller (left), Emily Rush, and Savannah Garber (right) perform as part of the Vagina Monologues hosted by the Pitt Campus Women’s Organization in the O’Hara Student Center this weekend. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

Natalie Miller (left), Emily Rush, and Savannah Garber (right) perform as part of the Vagina Monologues hosted by the Pitt Campus Women’s Organization in the O’Hara Student Center this weekend. (Photo by Issi Glatts | Assistant Visual Editor)

By Siddhi Shockey | Staff Writer

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Cheers roared throughout the O’Hara Ballroom as the individuals on stage repeated the word “mine” over and over in an effort to reclaim their sexuality, prompting the audience to join in.

The Campus Women’s Organization’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” — a play about the reclamation of gender and body confidence in an age of marginalization — took place this past weekend, February 9-11, in the O’Hara Ballroom.

Featuring the accounts of women Eve Ensler — the play’s original writer — interviewed in the 1990s, Pitt’s annual performance of “The Vagina Monologues” reignites conversation about the representation of female sexuality through stories told directly to the audience.

The performance began with a monologue titled “The Vagina Workshop,” in which three women discussed their experiences in a class where they were asked to familiarize themselves with their vaginas. The scene featured the actresses fully clothed but physically alluding to bending over on a mat with a mirror to examine themselves. As they spoke, they described the process as freeing yet scary, displaying an otherwise intimately personal moment in front of a room full of people.

Other monologues focused on the darker side of the female experience, such as in “Not-So Happy Fact,” which directly addressed female circumcision. The monologue used imagery to convey physical and mental pain, at one point referencing thorns used to stitch the vagina together.

Spoken in poetic terms, the emotionally charged language in “Not-So Happy Fact” told the stories of real women losing children and experiencing other medical complications that can result from genital mutilation.

Others use more veiled language — such as “Coochi snorcher” as a childhood euphemism for vagina — to express the full array of pain and joy surrounding sexuality. “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could” described the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl who later grew up to discover her sexuality with an older woman.

Opening the door to the complexity of such conversations was one of the biggest goals for director Lexie Thurston, a junior economics and communication major with a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies.

“A big part of just existing as a female identifying human is that I never feel like people are fully listening to me, ever,” Thurston said. “I’d say [to my cast] slow down, get loud, tell the story, because this is probably one of the first times people are actually gonna [stop] and listen.”

“My Angry Vagina” voiced concerns surrounding women’s vaginal health — specifically the lack of accessibility to feminine care products and medical equipment that work with varying female anatomy rather than conforming to one standard.

Other monologues, such as “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” and “The Flood,” discussed taboo issues like the female orgasm, the dominatrix lifestyle and insecurities involving vaginal discharge.

Senior urban studies and environmental studies major and performer Rebecca Zhou said listening to the diversity of experiences and topics in the show is critical for understanding and advancing women’s issues — especially for those who identify as nonbinary.

“I think it’s a good way to educate people who don’t identify as women,” Zhou said. “Like the couple of topics about vaginal health or just the vagina [helped] destigmatize the word and just makes it easier to talk about.”

Thurston also said this show should strike a chord with audience members who aren’t female, stretching the discussion from women’s issues to a broader message of self discovery and acceptance.

“So many monologues in the show were about that one moment when you woke up and realized who you were and what you were about,” Thurston said. “So I think that if anything, you should take this space to be on the lookout for those moments.”

Themes of self realization and acceptance are a common thread throughout the play itself — a critical aspect for Srinidhi Alur, a sophomore psychology major and performer in the show.

“‘My Short Skirt’ and some of the other monologues out there — it’s kind of sharing that what we wear and what we do is not an invitation for, like, sexual advances,” Alur said. “It shows that a very powerful female movement is necessary.”

Alur said such a show seems even more relevant in this day and age. “My Short Skirt” and “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could” were both monologues that explored sexual violence and the widespread issue of victim blaming in many assault cases.

“My Short Skirt” addressed clothing style choices and the role dress plays in victim blaming — holding victims accountable for sexual assault based on the manner in which they present themselves. The monologue encouraged women to dress for confidence and dispelled the misconception that dressing a certain way is an invitation for sex.

Financial producer Courtney Smith, a junior cultural anthropology and social work major, said she sees the show as an open emotional outlet for victims and women and even as an educational experience for those who may not identify as female.

“In a lot of ways, empowering women through this production reminds them that we hear you, you matter and we understand,” Smith said. “And hopefully it does help to mend some of those things and get people’s eyes open.”

According to Thurston, the overall theme for the show reached back to the roots of theater itself — telling stories. It is easy to make issues “clean” for public consumption, but Thurston said the first and foremost goal was to tell a story.

In this production, Thurston said she used the body to tell such a story, and as surprising and direct as the monologues may be, they demonstrated just how important it is for every story to be heard.

“No, [“The Vagina Monologues”] is not fully encompassing of all experiences, but even if you can get a sliver out there, it blows a door wide open … everyone’s got a story, and you’ve just got to listen,” Thurston said.

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Students celebrate sexuality in The Vagina Monologues