Vagina Monologues address violence against women

By Marissa Meredyth

The sought-after and sometimes elusive female orgasm popped up in a variety of forms during… The sought-after and sometimes elusive female orgasm popped up in a variety of forms during “The Vagina Monologues” last week.

Simulated moaning from orgasms entertained more than 100 people in David Lawrence Hall last weekend when an actress demonstrated multiple ways of voicing the big moment.

Although “machine gun” and “tortured zen” moans brought comedic relief, continued violence against women remained the major theme of the event. Topics included pubic hair, sex workers and violence against women during war.

Campus Women’s Organization orchestrated the production, which is based on Eve Ensler’s popular play that addresses female sexuality and abuse. Different performances covered topics of violence, silence, shame, racism and sexism.

Frayda Cohen, a lecturer of anthropology and women’s studies, said that the event is designed to encourage “frank discussion.”

These discussions can be seen as a mechanism to empower women, said Cohen, who was not involved with the Pitt event.

The intention of the production is that, behind the recognizable and possibly controversial name, women’s voices will reach across campus and into the minds of those that the organization could not normally reach, said Bella Salamone, public relations chair for CWO.

“[The production] crosses barriers: men, women, professors, students, feminists, activists and people who don’t identify as any of those things are all included in our audience,” Salamone said.

“All sorts of people turn out to support us and be a part of the solution,” she added.

Dylan Drobish, a senior neuroscience and linguistics major, stood out as the one of the only men on stage.

He said he had seen the production three times previously — this is the sixth time the production has been held at Pitt — and that his girlfriend had been in it once.

Drobish, who is a female-to-male transgendered person, participated this year in a monologue about the harassment and abuse faced by transsexuals, although he self-identifies as queer, meaning he doesn’t conform to male or female societal standards.

Dressed in a wig and black dress, he said he understood what many women go through on their path to acceptance.

He finds it ridiculous that some still consider the production controversial.

“[The vagina] is a part of the body,” Drobish said. “You see men talking about penises all the time.” He was also surprised when a male friend asked him when “balls week” was.

“It’s balls week every week,” he said.

Tracey Hickey, who performed a monologue about pubic hair, said the production helps break silence about female sexuality.

“So many people are embarrassed to talk about this stuff,” Hickey said. “Like pubic hair is supposed to be completely disgusting and ugly.”

She also thought many Americans think they are comfortable talking about sex, but still get squeamish when certain topics are discussed.

This was evident in the audience when one woman curled up in her seat and cringed during a performance about child birth. She repeatedly whispered, “Oh, gross.”

“We have a sanitized version of sex,” Hickey said.

One criticism of the original Ensler production was its Western bias, Cohen said. Both feminist groups and conservative groups have also been critical of the production in the past.

“Students are often grappling with the key issues discussed in ‘The Monologues,’” Cohen said. “And because they stage the production, they can make editorial choices that reflect their particular interests.”

Student organizers took this liberty this yearby including a monologue on Haiti, which was devastated by last year’s massive earthquake.

One monologue was a tribute to feminist activist Myriam Merlet, who was killed during the Haiti earthquake. The actress who performed the monologue promised to continue the work of Merlet, especially because violence against women has risen since the earthquake.“Not a lot of people know about the condition that Haiti is in right now,” Salamone said.

“Refugee camps are still terrifying places without any sort of security, law enforcement is effectively useless, and women live from day to day resigned to the expectation that if they go out and try to find water, food or work, they will have to fend off attackers,” Salamone said.

Salamone said that if Haitian women leave their daughters alone to find water, food or employment, their daughters could fall prey to attackers.

The production donated 10 percent of its proceeds to V-Day, a global activist movement to stop violence against women and girls. The rest went to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, whose mission is to end intimate partner violence in the lives of women and their children.