Boris Tsang / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Students perform at Cornell's 21st production of 'The Vagina Monologues'.

February 11, 2019

Cornell’s 21st ‘Vagina Monologues’ Aims to Empower Women

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Originally a play written by Eve Ensler, the 21st annual production of The Vagina Monologues at Cornell featured 24 cast members in 19 scenes, filling Bailey Hall on Saturday night with laughter, shouting and occasionally silence.

During a monologue titled “Reclaiming Cunt” — which looked to rebrand the traditionally derogatory term as empowering — two actresses chanted the word on stage, shouting, “Say it, tell me, cunt, cunt!” As the scene ended, a woman in the audience echoed them from her seat and the auditorium filled with giggles.

“It’s about empowering women and having the audience leave feeling better and stronger than they did when they walked in,” said Ariel Roldan ’21, co-director of the show.

The production is sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, with 90 percent of proceeds going to the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County and 10 percent to the Ensler’s V-Day 2019 Spotlight on Women in Prison, Detention Centers and Formerly Incarcerated Women, an annual campaign for Ensler’s global activist movement.

This year’s show raised more than $8,500 from pre-purchased ticket sales, not accounting for additional tickets sold at the door. Last year’s show raised $11,000 in total for the Advocacy Center, according to Roldan.

The Advocacy Center, a local organization, provides outreach work for sexual assault survivors and bystander intervention education, according to co-director Nikita Lakhani ’19.

“[The Advocacy Center is] actually presenting a monologue tonight where they discuss what they do,” Lakhani said. “We thought it was important to include them so that you can really know what your proceeds are going towards and the important work they do.”

The play on Saturday, titled “Six Zero Seven Two Seven Seven Five-Thousand” after its 24-hour hotline, captured moments when crisis counselors remember their callers.

The hour-and-a-half production triggered laughter as well as moments of silence throughout the night. Monologues touched on topics including rape, transgender identity, genital mutilation, female liberation and self-realization through sex.

“I appreciate how diverse the cast is and how empowering the whole show was,” said audience member Cameron Dunbar ’21 after watching the play for the first time. “It demystifies female sexuality and promotes women taking agency of their own bodies.”

Lakhani said the show’s main message is to be inclusive.

“This play address a bunch of issues that people don’t really talk about — taboos and such, like the word ‘vagina’ for example,” she said. “It’s interesting to have the audience react to that and come away thinking about these issues and having these conversations a lot more with people that are around them.”