Volume 96, Issue 74
Tuesday, February 11, 2003

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Vagina is the real "V-word" this week

By Isabela Varela
Gazette Staff

If Sharon Bauer has her way, the "V" word on everyone's lips this week will be "vagina."

"When I say the word, I feel it makes me stronger," Bauer said.

The second-year philosophy student is the woman behind Western's all-student production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues.

The play runs at The Wave Feb. 10-12 as part of V-Day 2003, a global campaign started by Ensler in 1998 to end violence against women.

Bauer said she read the Obie-Award winning play while doing volunteer work in Costa Rica last summer, and felt transformed by its funny and poignant monologues about women's sexuality.

"I never even considered myself a feminist before," she said. "Then I read The Vagina Monologues and everything changed."

Apparently, Bauer wasn't the only Western student interested in joining the international movement inspired by the play. When the first-time producer put out a casting call last fall, around 100 people turned up to audition for the show.

"The one thing I stressed was diversity," Bauer said. She believes the 22 women picked for the cast embody the play's message that violence against women affects everyone, regardless of ethnicity, age or class. And guys, you don't need to have a vagina to be a part of the Monologues – there is a man in the production, too.

Sarah Fraley, the show's publicist, said the play isn't about women bashing men, but aims to increase men's understanding of women and women's understanding of each other.

"Women's sexuality is hidden, or [the perception is] we don't have one. If people understood women's sexuality, they might respect it more," Fraley said.

The Vagina Monologues, based on interviews Eve Ensler conducted with women around the world, range from the harrowing story of a woman's torture and rape in a Bosnian prison camp, to Sex and the City-style talk about women's orgasms and the importance of reclaiming words such as "cunt" and "pussy."

"I think The Vagina Monologues is a great production because nothing like it has been done before," said Erin McCloskey, co-ordinator of Western's Women's Issues Network. "It amplifies the voices of so many women whose stories haven't been told."

Third-year psychology student Michelle Szeto was a Vagina Monologues cast-member last year and is now directing the play. Wearing a black T-shirt with red letters spelling "wet lips," Szeto said she's clear about what the play and the V-Day campaign mean to her.

"I believe in choice, the celebration of sexuality, equality, unity among women and stopping violence against women," she said. "We're here to make vaginas real."

For those people who have trouble seeing the connection between Valentine's Day, vaginas and violence against women, Szeto offers the following explanation:

"Valentine's Day is very Hallmark. If you're a guy doing something for your girlfriend, you should know it's not about chocolate and flowers. Not all women want materialistic stuff. We just want to have some dignity."



Production Info

What: A production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues
Who: Starring 22 Western students
When: Feb. 10-12
Where: The Wave (2nd floor UCC)
Why: To send out an anti-violence-against-women message
How: A series of monologues dealing with female sexuality

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2002 THE GAZETTE