In my first year as a nervous fresher, I saw the Vagina Monolancs stand in week one and marvelled at the powerful women behind, and the strength they must have had to promote such a frustratingly controversial and seemingly niche topic area. I’m no stranger to feminism and I love women, so I was intrigued, but swept up in the stereotypes and the shock that surrounded the vagina themed stall, I moved on. Tonight at The Storey, I decided to stop moving on, and step into the sometimes cringeworthy and always emotional world of talking about vaginas.
I can’t say I knew what to expect, or how the entire experience would make me feel. What I do know is that as soon as the stories were being told, I felt a visceral aching in my chest and was overcome by the barrage of protective woman-hood. The emotional rollercoaster that I went on for two hours can’t really be put into words, but I can tell you that I’ve never experienced wanting to stop hearing and simultaneously learn more about anything in my life. I was on the edge of my seat the entire way through. The performers were wonderful and truly did the monologues justice, with an eclectic mix of humour,
passion and at times a severity that gave me shivers.
The show started out informative: there have been 16 years of Vagina Monolancs, based on the Eve Ensler interviews, and each year at Lancaster it is adapted and diversified to be as intersectional and inclusive as possible. There were a variety of performers involved, and a singer-songwriter, Audrey Tambudzai, who performed the original song at the end.The wide range of topics covered by the monologues varied through rape, childbirth, pleasure and an audience favourite: ‘this monologue is about awoman who had a good experience with a man.’ Messages of body positivity and celebration of the female body were harshly juxtaposed with vulnerability, invasion and war crimes to create a tense, uncomfortably aware atmosphere. The emotions of the performers were phenomenal and simultaneously controlled – I have in mind a particular monologue called ‘My Vagina was my Village’ wherein two girls, Rose Proudfoot and Charlotte Marlor, stood back to back reciting strikingly different memories – one of positivity, and empowerment regarding the female form as a place of safety and comfort, and another of sheer destruction and abuse. The low lighting, the powerful performance and the subject matter all contributed to an overwhelming feeling that this stuff just isn’t spoken about enough. Something needs to change, and that something is attitudes.
Another particularly standout performance for me was the ending monologue, ‘The Woman Who Liked To Make Vaginas Happy’, performed by Natalie Fisher. It takes a lot of strength to stand up and moan on stage, but the feeling of solidarity emanating from the rest of the girls behind surely helped. In that room, on that night, I truly feel that the best way to hear women’s voices, stories and lives is to let them speak. It made me realise how infrequently women get to speak for prolonged periods of time. This sentiment was reaffirmed in my mind upon telling my female friend’s I had been to see the show. Their shocked, embarrassed responses – friends who are themselves feminists, but are so swept up in the shame and self-consciousness about talking about their own bodies, especially genitals, in a positive light – confirmed th
at spaces are needed to talk about these things freely and without shame. The Vagina Monolancs was that space tonight.