Aidan Largey ‘21
On February 14 and 15, The Feminist Forum sponsored its annual production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” in the Hogan Ballroom. The monologues are compiled from interviews that Ensler conducted with hundreds of women that explore their experiences with female sexuality, identity, and womanhood.
The original goals of “The Monologues” are to break down taboos related to women’s issues and heighten awareness of sexual harassment and assault. Directed by Tanusha Yarlagadda ’18 and Emily Arancio ’20, the monologues were also performed by an all-female student cast.
Preparing for the Monologues is no easy task. According to Yarlagadda ‘18, “Each monologue takes weeks to prepare and as directors, we spent countless hours working with each actress on their articulation, acting techniques and basic blocking. The process as a whole required rehearsal every night for weeks and full practice runs to make sure everything works perfectly. On top of it, we used a testimonial from a current Holy Cross student, Carlito Beal ‘18, and utilized talents from women in a variety of disciplines from music to lighting and tech.”
“The Vagina Monologues” offer a window into the experiences of countless women that are rarely told in our society. Among the stories included were a Bosnian woman who was raped by soldiers, a 72-year-old woman who’d never looked “down there,” the experiences of transgender women and their struggle to be accepted for who they are, and women’s frank anecdotes of their first periods. Also mentioned was a short informational piece about female genital mutilation and how many women and girls around the world are affected by the practice.
First performed in 1996, “The Monologues” made its debut at Holy Cross in 2002 and brought with it considerable controversy. Many members of the Holy Cross community objected to the raw depictions of sexuality in the performances which they believed made “The Monologues” unsuitable for a Catholic college.
According to Elizabeth Walker’s Spring 2002 article in this publication titled “A Dialogue on the Monologues,” “many alumni and some students were appalled that the show was being performed at Holy Cross, with some alumni even suggesting that it made their relationship with the college tenuous.”
Despite this controversy, the reception among the students was mostly positive. “I really enjoyed the performance!” said Siobhan Kiernan ’21. “To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised while watching each of the different stories. I found that each dialogue embodied a different atmosphere when addressing topics such as sexuality or even just basic body education. It was also both very moving and entertaining. Everyone involved should be very proud.”
This celebration of women and their empowerment is especially relevant in the current climate of sexual assault allegations against powerful men in Hollywood and elsewhere. Yarlagadda ’18 said “We wanted to showcase that Holy Cross is a campus full of inspiring, strong, articulate women who support each other and use their voice to uplift notions of equality and justice to women not only on campus, but all over the world.”
She continued, “Women have been taking charge socially and have been at the forefront of change, whether it be the multitudes of women’s marches and protests to the confrontation of sexual assault with the #Metoo and Times Up movements. This was our small contribution.” In addition to spreading awareness, the event also raised $403 in donations to Abby’s House, a women’s shelter in Worcester.
“The Vagina Monologues” challenges members of the Holy Cross community to consider all aspects of the female experience, encourages them to appreciate the perspectives of women, and urges them to take a stand against sexual violence.