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The Carletonian

Vagina Monologues raise awareness and money

<st Saturday night, over 800 people packed the chapel for an evening of laughter, tears and, at times, heavy silence. Dealing with issues ranging from pubic hair and orgasms to genital mutilation and rape, Carleton’s production of The Vagina Monologues celebrated female sexuality and highlighted the reality of sexual violence against women.

Based on interviews with hundreds of women conducted by playwright Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues “simply attempts to share women’s stories,” producer Marlene Edelstein ’11 said.

The annual production, organized by the Gender and Sexuality Center, was connected with V-Day, an international organization dedicated to stopping violence against women and girls. Though Ensler originally conceived of The Vagina Monologues solely as a vehicle to promote discussions of female sexuality, the play quickly acquired an anti-violence theme, and now serves as a central part of the V-Day campaign. The production balances two goals: to tell the powerful stories of the women Ensler interviewed and to bring attention to the global phenomenon of sexual violence against women.

“Through the process of story-telling, [the play can] raise awareness and promote activism,” Edelstein said.
After production costs, the play raised about $2000 in donations, which will be used to support anti-violence efforts both locally and abroad. The V-Day community at Carleton will donate part of the proceeds to the HOPE Center, a Rice County support center for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The rest will go to City of Joy, a leadership and recovery institute for survivors in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) being built by V-Day and its partner organizations. In an effort to raise awareness of this V-Day “spotlight” project, Carleton students led two teach-ins in the last two weeks on sexual violence against women in the DRC.
 In addition to supporting survivors of sexual violence in Rice County and the DRC, the annual production of The Vagina Monologues is a source of support for women on the Carleton campus.

The play “gives us an opportunity to really create a community before the production,” said Edelstein. For survivors on stage and in the audience, the production is “a visual testament that there is a community of people that are supportive of them,” she said, adding that it’s a “show of solidarity.”

For some audience members, the play’s heavy emotional content and graphic descriptions of sexual violence can be overwhelming.

“I left feeling a little uncomfortable,” Vagina Monologues actress Claire Harper ’12 admits about seeing the show for the first time last year. But after an engaging discussion with her hallmates about the difficult issues the play brought up, she realized that the production is meant to provoke conversations on topics that are often ignored.

“How else are you going to get people talking about this?” asked Harper.

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