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March 20, 2014 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-03-20

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4B - Thursday, March 20, 2014
THE VAG
From Page 1B
When TeRaye Walker told
members of her church that she
was acting in "The Vagina Mono-
logues," someone joked "Your
vagina can talk?" The recent
School of Social Work graduate
laughed it off, but doesn't deny
the sense off fear, and shame, that
surrounds the scary V-word. LSA
sophomore Irene Suh - who is a
member of Students for Choice
sod proodlh wears a T-shirt
emblazoned with the reproductive
rights slogan "My kitty, my choice"
. has yet to tell her parents about
her role in the show because she
worries about their reaction.
"Until I got to college, I was
broughtup in the household where
it was not OK to talk about sex, or
vaginas or reproductive health,
so being able to talk about this is
really liberating for me," Suh said.
Fear, shame, ignorance: symp-
coms of a culture focused on sex
rather than sexuality, objectifica-
tion rather than understanding.
"The Vagina Monologues" is an
effort to recreate what we think
about the female reproductive
organ -- and about women them-
selves.
"This is kind of stuff that's still
so taboo to talk about," said LSA
senior Suzanne Maclaren, cast
member, "Sex in general is kind
of taboo to talk about, but sex
in women and the 'power of the
vagina' - it's still something that
people are afraid to talk about."
Performance with a purpose
"The Vagina Monologues" was
first written in 1996 by Eve Ensler,
who conducted over 200 inter-
views with women of all ages and
backgrounds to write a series of
monolgues ostensibly about one
hing: the vagina. Now the show
is performed by groups around
the country, with the proceeds
going to support a non-profit of
their choice along with V-Day, the
organization started by Ensler
that strives to end violence against
women. The show was brought
back to the University last year by
Students for Choice, an organiza-
tion that promotes reproductive
rightsonscampus
"'(Students for Choice) brought
'Vagina Monologues' because we
are a feminist organization and
women's empowerment is very
closely tied with reproductive
rights," said LSA junior Sophia
Kotov, co-president of the orga-
nization. "When female bodies
are mentioned in the media, this
is alomost always deeply problem-
atic, offensive and oppressive. 'The
Va'ina Monologues,' on the other
hand, provides an experience for
people of all genders to hear frank
talk and trrue stories about women
and women's bodies coming from
these same people."
This year the show is going to
be performed in the Rackham
Auditorium on T'hursday, March
21. In the Rackham lobby dur-
ing the half hour leading uo to

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

the perfor
Choice will
from differ
campus, ma
health and I
students.
Unliker
mance grou
Vagina Mon
ated with t
nor does it I
like other
essentially
into women
cohesive tal'
"An abs
majority of
ing theater
said LSAs
Parkinson,
"It's a lot o
passion for t
interested,
in try-outs."
This pass
90 percent
show go to s
Center, a do
ter in Wasl
shelter serv
housing cen
domestic vi
host of prog
ers and chi
living there
months afte
"They ha
open to me
dren, anyo
space to be
a volunteer
teen outre
"They also
ers unit, so
police abou
then SafeH
and theys
over to help
The servi
directly to
themes of'
logues," w
those who
just "thatI
While the s
and brutal
attention to
with moono
hair, horse
orgasms an
discoveries,
dispel stig
organ with
ity; the scrip
tating issue:
Women c
range of the
be the confu
or the vuln
bering past
follows the
of an older
much sham'
ine her sexu
"My Vagin
discusses t
during the'
Suh, a survi
herself and
other survi
ly with "My
lage."
"Seeing (
theater prac
and powerf
back from
have very m

mance, Students for
host representatives
ent activist groups on
ny promoting sexual
providing resources to
many other perfor-
ups on campus, "The
mologues" is not affili-
the theater program,
have a plot or staging
scripts. The show is
a series of snapshots
's lives rather than a
e.
olute, overwhelming
the cast is not pursu-
as a career or major,"
sophomore Madeline
the show's producer.
f women who have a
:his subject, who were
and who rocked it out

Frita Bati'dos
is worth
the trek

LSA freshman Celeste Goedert at 'Mono
from history," Suh said.
Not just feminist,
but "humanist"

ion is well-placed, as While "The Vagina Mono-
of the proceeds of the logues" has proven to appeal to
upport the SafeHouse any audience with an open mind,
smestic violence shel- its value at the University is all
htenaw County. This the more significant consider-
es as a transitional ing rising concerns about sexual
iter for those fleeing assault and gendered violence on
olence, and it offers a campus.
rams to assist moth- "On college campuses, vio-
ldren while they are lence against women is so preva-
and in the years and lent that it's so important to have
'r they have left. the show, especially for the col-
ve a 40 bed shelter lege community," said School of
n, women and chil- Social Work doctoral candidate
ne who needs a safe Kylee Smith. "The show demands
Parkinson, who is an end to gendered violence and
in one of the center's violence against women, and in
ach programs, said. thatway, it does demand equality."
have a first respond- There is a growing movement
if there is a call to the toward highlighting violence
t a domestic situation against women not as a woman's
ouse is also contacted issue, but as a human issue. "The
send representatives Vagina Monologues" takes this
the survivor." idea one step forward, asserting
ices of the center link that women's health, sexuality and
the more sobering experiences canbe celebrated and
"The Vagina Mono- understoodby all, as long as people
hich may surprise are open to listening.
think of the show as "This is a show that will ring
play about vaginas." true for a lot of people no matter
how does use humor your gender or your sexuality,"
honesty to bring said LSA senior Suzanne Maclar-
the vagina itself - en. "It's something that is framed
logues about pubic as 'The Vagina Monologues' but it
back-riding induced really does just speak about essen-
d hand mirror self- tial parts of humanity, like sexual-
Ensler sought to ity or just trying to find your own
nas surrounding the identity."
humor and relatabil- The show is often judged as a
t tackles more debili- negative product of modern femi-
s as well. nism, reduced to nothing more
an relate to the whole than a gaggle of women getting
se issues, whether it together to hate men and burn
sion of self-discovery bras.
erability in remem- "People that have never seen
pain. One monologue this show think, 'Oh that's just a
bittersweet thoughts bunch of women saying 'Power to
woman who felt too the pussy!' but to be in it, or to hear
e to ever fully exam- it, or to see it - it is deeper than
uality. Another, titled that," Walker said. "So even if you
a Was My Village," are not a feminist you can relate to
he survivors of rape this show."
war in Bosnia. Irene These women reject the myth
vor of sexual assault that feminism is all about anger
now an advocate for and hate; rather, the show focuses
'ors, connects strong- on reclaiming womanhood instead
'Vagina Was My Vil- of "emasculating" manhood.
Though women make up a major-
sexual assault) in a ity of the audience, Parkinson said
'tice - it's vulnerable last year men comprised approxi-.
ul, taking that voice mately 30-40 percent of the audi-
the oppressors who ence. She contributes this high
iuch tried to erase it representation to the universal
themes of the show.
"I know a lot of men who came
up to me after the show last year,
who had gone with their mothers
orsisters orgirlfriends," Parkinson
said."They had things they related
to as well, like coming of age and
finding yourself."
Expanding the reach of the
show not only promotes education
about parts usually ignored - as
Smith says, "No one ever asks you
about your vagina"- but it decon-
structs centuries-old stigmas
about female genitalia.
NICHOLAS WILLIAMS/Daily "It's all about starting conver-
sations," Smith said. "Hopefully

logue' rehearsals.
it gets people more comfortable
talking about their vagina, talking
about their stories."
Vulnerability and
Empowerment
Think about the last television
commercials you watched. How
many included women? Probably
most. How many featured "sexy"
women - those dressed scantily,
those wearing excessive makeup,
those in unnatural and hyper-sex-
ualized poses? Now, how many of
these women had names? How
many had stories? How many
spoke?
Women often have two options:
to be silent and overlooked, or
to speak and be labeled "radi-
cal." "The Vagina Monologues"
attempts to give women a voice
while still valuing every woman's
spectrum of sexuality; it focuses
on collective representation over
blind definition. Many cast mem-
bers repeatedly brought up the
show's emphasis onvulnerability.
"It's realizingthat sexuality and
expressions ofsexualitydon'thave
to be a source of anxiety," Maclar-
en said. "You can find comfort
whether through other people or
by yourself. To trust yourself isn't
a foolish thingto do."
This vein of empowerment
is central to the program, for
both cast members and audi-
ences. However, unlike many
representations of the word, this
empowerment comes from self-
awareness and acceptance, rather
than an outside force. "The Vagi-
na Monologues" onlyhopes to be a
catalyst in helpingpeople discover
themselves.
"It's women empowering
women and supporting each
other. Even for me it seems like it's
duplicitous," said Sam Wellman,
a recent graduate of the School of
Social Work. "Like how can you be
both angry and vulnerable? How
can you be both sexual and inno-
cent? But you can be and nobody
can take that from you, and that's
not youbeing complicated or crazy,
that's youbeinga humanbeing."
Though each part has been rei-
magined and individualized as the
actresses shape their characters,
it's valuable to recall that these
monologues are based on inter-
viewswithrealwomen - these are
not scenes in a fictional play, but
representations of real people's
deepest pains and struggles. The
hundreds of women interviewed
had to bare much of who they
were to contribute to the mono-
logues, revealing their many
human strengths and human
weaknesses.
"My biggest concern, worry,
struggle is making sure that I am
doing justice to this story," Well-
man said. "Knowing that this not
only was from an interview with
a real woman with this actual
experience, but knowing that
it struck a chord with me so it's
going to strike a chord with other
people ... I want to present it in a
way that honors that."

pace. We're
bundled in
scarves and
earmuffs,
complaining
relentlessly
about the
blistering
wind
attacking
our face
with its
frigid

T he trek is an
investment of
time, and even
more so today as the smooth
ice covering the cracked
concrete sidewalks slows our

F'
NATE
WOOD

needles. But it's worth it,
without a doubt.
You see, before the real
world cruelly sucked away my
graduating friends, this was
a regular occurrence. Our
pot of gold at the end of the
wintery weather rainbow?
Frita Batidos.
I let my inner self explore
the corners of my memory
as we navigate back to this
Cuban burger promised land.
There was the first time I'd
tried Frita Batidos: A very
confused freshman, I was
entirely distracted by the
nets full of limes hanging
next to the condiments at
each table. Were they decor,
air fresheners or just waiting
to be juiced by citrus-seeking
customers? I remember the
time that my fellow RAs
and I crammed around the
picnic tables outside to
celebrate/commemorate the
closing of South Quad. Only
when Mother Nature began
pouring down rain were we
forced to leave. And finally, I
remember the Fritas lunch a
close friend and I shared on
her last day in Ann Arbor. A
casualty to graduate school,
she was moving out-of-state
and on to bigger and better
things. The easiest way for us
to say "see you later" was over
a burger and milkshake.
And as much as it didn't feel
like it at the time, it really was
only a "see you later." Flash-
forward seven months, and
here we are again - the same
group of friends walking
the same blocks in search of
the same sandwich. What
better way to end the perfect
reunion weekend than at our
standby rendezvous?
With bright red noses,
cheeks and ears, we arrive
happy to finally be back in
the warmth. Drinks are first,
with everyone ordering the
usual. The health nut, Sean,
asks for "the lighter batido,"
which is made with mango
and pineapple juice. Neha
sips on a mango soda, which
she calls "the nectar of the
gods," and Emily and I enjoy
our rum-spiked coconut
cream batidos (it's never too
cold for a tropical milkshake,
ironically). The fritas -
essentially Cuban burgers
with fries stacked between
the buns - are next. Again,
no surprises here: chicken for
Sean and Neha, black bean for
Emily and chorizo for me.
I've elected to add avocado
spread, Muenster cheese
and an over-easy egg to my
frita, which always sounds
better in theory than it ends

up being in reality. Ketchup
and avocado force themselves
out from between the two
halves of the brioche bun as
my incisors tear through each
layer. Runny egg yolk drips
down the back of my hand, and
chunks of chorizo drop to the
bottom of the basket in which
the mess of the meal is served.
"Oh, that's what this fork is
for," I think.
The food here is always
impeccable, and the company
is even better. My friends and
I nosh and chat for the next
30, 60, 90 minutes, feeling
"just like the old times" as
we reminisce about the year
before: how annoyingly
unavailable Neha had been
during internship recruiting
season, how Sean had
somehow convinced himself
to become a vegetarian,
how we had to stage a "How
I Met Your Mother"-style
intervention for Emily - who
slept on her couch for weeks
to avoid putting fitted sheets
on her bunk bed - and how
I became embarrassingly
depressed one night by
watching "Hoarding: Buried
Alive." It felt so casually
normal, as if only a matter of
days had passed since our last
Fritas visit.
Take advantage
of your time
in A2.
I tried to harness this
feeling as I worked to console
myself of the fact that it would
likely be another seven months
before this would happen
again ... if we were lucky. The
plane back to reality was on
its way to transport Emily -
in the same way that it had
Chris and Rebecca the day
prior (who sadly missed out
on our Fritas excursion) - to
what seemed like thousands
of miles away. Of course, they
would actually be many hours
closer than that, but still far
enough away that trips to
Frita Batidos were relegated
to being an occasional treat.
The real world sucks.
But we make due. Texting
groups, Google hangouts
and social media keep us
all connected. Life updates
don't go unshared, and futons
and foldout beds don't go
unused. And every once and
awhile, when the stars align,
a weekend of fraternizing and
Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor
recharges our spirits and
reminds us of the enduring
power of true friendship.
To all the bright-eyed
freshmen reading this, enjoy
this rare time in your life
when you live within walking
distance of all of your
friends. To the alumni and
staff, consider reaching out
to that college friend you've
not contacted nearly recently
enough. And to Sean, Neha,
Rebecca, Chris and Emily, I'll
see you at Fritas.

You can contact Wood at
Fritas on a nightly basis or
at nisaacw@umich.edu.

re Miriar Dow rehearses at Hillel.

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