Panel Discusses What Vagina Monologues Mean for Men

Danielle Hughes rehearses for “The Vagina Monologues,” which ran from Feb. 12-14 and was prefaced by a panel discussion; topics covered during this discussions included how the play affected men, and why the monologues often make some audience members uncomfortable. Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn.

“The Vagina Monologues” is a play that raises many sensitive topics in the forefronts of audiences’ minds, such as violence against women and other feminist issues. On Feb. 11, prior to the opening performancce of the play’s three-night run, a panel of professors and students working with the show were able to answer questions regarding these issues. This included the director of the play Julianne Fawsitt, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at USF Mary J. Wardell, Ed.D, Professor in Theology and Religious Studies Lilian Dube, and others.

“The Vagina Monologues” has been at USF for 10 years.  The play and its vision with USF focuses on human rights and brings a global response instead of a local perspective. This play also allows students to participate in the movement.

The director of the show was asked to explain the message of the show in relation to USF’s mission. Fawsitt answered, “The USF mission is to educate hearts and minds to change the world…”The Vagina Monologues” has funny and moving pieces, gaining education through a wide range of experiences. If one opens itself to these issues, it’ll open their eyes…to experience communally and share experiences with other people.”

“The Vagina Monologues” first began in 1996 written by Eve Ensler. V-day first began in 1998 with a sold-out benefit performance of the “The Vagina Monologue.” The “V” in V-day stands for “Victory, Valentine, and Vagina.” Their website states V-day is a “global movement to stop violence against women.” The V-day campaign is to end physical and sexual violence, and even assault on being a woman, which is less obvious.

One of the major issues discussed among the panel is the involvement with men and the play. Men may feel uncomfortable going to see the show but those in the audience and the panel believe that men should be more aware of sexual violence and are encouraged to see the performance.  A question was raised about how they can get more involved, since many may feel like their perspective is that they don’t belong there. The panel responded that men might help out by getting involved in dialogue and hopefully in the school curriculum. Students are more likely to listen to other students as opposed to professors. With the grant money received last year, the panel hopes to incorporate a program in the core curriculum about sexual violence.

Aside from getting people to see the performance and being more aware of sexual violence, there was discussion about what the U.S. government and what the Jesuit community is doing to help due to limited resources. The panel responded that the state and not the federal government controls sexual education. Sexual issues are taught in sex education classes but these classes have been minimized and many policies have ended talk about sex. Here at USF, a Jesuit community, there is space created and opportunity for dialogue. For example, The Vagina Monologue displays art and empathy. There is a broader palate by including specific human beings and behavior. The Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Student Resource Center at USF is also a resource and space dealing with issues of sexual violence.

It is almost the anniversary of the sexual assaults that occurred last year on campus. One question was proposed to Fawsitt, “Do you feel responsible that the plays can trigger the trauma?” The president of College Players responded that she does feel responsible but there are resources available, maybe not enough but there are.  In addition she said, “The campaign is to show itself as a collaboration and that we are not alone and there is also joy.”

Although the show consists of selections from way back when “The Vagina Monologues” first started, the discussion about whether pieces were outdated came to question. The response was that “The Vagina Monologues” has both individual and collective focuses, which females can relate to even though we have moved on in time.

Most importantly, the panel also discussed how the performances make many uncomfortable. By dissecting this topic, the panel came up with the conclusion that people are most discomforted because they are not compassionate towards their own selves. The panel said one should be appreciating his or her body, and that many of us need to treat ourselves with compassion.

After watching the performance, senior Andrew Harada, 21, said, “I really liked the humor that they used throughout the show. I thought “The Vagina Monologues” would just be long and boring but turned out to be the opposite. I would actually let people know that it’s a good show that supports a worthy cause.”

During the discussion panel, Lilian Dube responds to a question pertaining to USF students wanting to help globally in relation to the Democratic Republic of Congo (there was a selection performance in regards to the issues in the country). Flattered that students want to help the world globally she points out it’s great to change things in different parts of the world but there are the same problems right here in San Francisco. Dube says, “I want students to be challenged to look into their backyard.”

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