Friday, 17 February 2012

In review: The Vagina Monologues

So, done with hearing bishops on the radio wittering on about just exactly how much bigotry against women Jesus would have wanted, I finally went, with some trepidition, to see the annual Valentine's Day production of The Vagina Monologues put on by Lancaster University students at the Nuffield Theatre. And laughed my socks off.  

It's not all laughs of course. The Vagina Monologues is a production staged by groups around the world on Valentine's Day to raise money for organisations protecting women from violence. The V-Day movement campaigns against domestic abuse and rape and also highlights and opposes the mass organised sexual crimes of violence against women that are integral to many military conflicts around the world and endemic in the brutally cruel female genital mutilation practices of many societies. The World Health Organisation estimates that 100–140 million women and girls around the world have been genitally mutilated, including 92 million in Africa.  The short term mortality rate resulting from the procedure is estimated at 10%. A further 25% die in the long term from recurrent infections and complications during childbirth as a result of obstruction and / or haemorrhage. There is no other holocaust in human history organised on this scale. 

Naming the place where must of us were lucky enough to begin our lives makes a lot of people uncomfortable in our culture and it triggers a welter of confused associations and assumptions that we are generally conditioned to block. The V-Day production challenges these by presenting the personal histories of women, undiluted by the false, repressive memes that their bodies are commodified porn and their experiences and priorities as women irrelevant. The script evidently thrives on local adaptations and has been updated.  And I saw: 30 talented, tough, cheerful young women getting to grips together with the reality they have inherited and sharing in an alchemy that has turned painful experience into strategy, warmth and wit. That bubbles into unexpected celebrations. 

This production played to full houses for three nights to standing ovations. And the money will be crucial to local domestic abuse services that have all lost funding in a big way through the cuts. So, kudos to the V-Team and their audiences.

Monday also saw a V-Men workshop on campus for men opposed to violence against women. Hallelujah!

For more about the V-Day movement visit

See also Virtual Lancaster reviews from October 2003:

Puppetry of the Penis (Perksy Jobsworth)

Richard Herring - Talking Cock (Chris Satori)

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