The other night my fiance and I took in The Vagina Monologues at Marquette. Well, sort of at Marquette, I don't think it was officially sanctioned by the school and I'm not sure it was actually on campus grounds.
It was the first time I had seen the play (though I had seen a couple scenes acted out and heard about some others). I have to say first that it was hit. Well acted, alternately funny (Ms. Ali Fagnan acted out a monologue that had me laughing so hard my face literraly hurt), horrifying, deep, and thought provoking.
The basic premise of the play, as I understood it, is that women are alienated from their own femaleness. Patriarchal culture forces women to see themselves as the other, as the "second sex."
The symbol of the vagina is used quite nicely to this effect. A common theme in the monologues is that women find their vaginas ugly or disturbing and are called upon to see it instead as something beautiful and essential to who they are. In other words, their femaleness is not something to fear and loathe, but to embrace and celebrate.
The standard criticism of The Vagina Monologues is that it is vulgar and reduces women to their "sexual parts." Nothing could be further from the truth. The play is about empowering women to claim their femaleness as something powerful, and the language is intended to subvert hostile actions and intentions against women.
Finally, in keeping with a long tradition of performing the monologues to increase awareness of violence against women, this version of the play donated all the proceeds to pay for two surgeries to repair vaginal fistulas.
The play's candid look at violence (both physical and psychological) is probably the most remarkable and startling feature of it.