Organizers move ‘Vagina Monologues’ off campus

Marquette's feminist student organization, Empowerment, is presenting "The Vagina Monologues" Friday at the 2040 Lofts.

This Friday marks the third consecutive year that Marquette women will gather off campus for a performance of “The Vagina Monologues.”

Empowerment, Marquette’s feminist student organization, has attempted to bring the event on campus, but the university hasn’t allowed it unless performed in the context of an academic setting.

In April 2007, the university approved a performance of the Vagina Monologues, followed by a faculty-led discussion in the Helfaer Theatre. The Honors Program symposium, “An Academic Conversation on Catholicism, Sexuality and Human Rights featuring a reading of ‘The Vagina Monologues,’” included panelists from Marquette’s English, political science and philosophy departments, as well as a theology professor from DePaul University.

“It shouldn’t have to be in an academic context,” said Empowerment co-chair Desiree Valentine, a senior in the College of Communication who is directing the event. “We want it to be recognized as student-run and initiated, which it is.”

“The Vagina Monologues” was first performed in 1996 as a one-woman play by author Eve Ensler. Skits range from the humorous and lighthearted to the more serious. Some contain graphic descriptions of rape, prostitution and the female orgasm.

“There are certain monologues that are more explicit,” said Claire Mysliwy, a junior in the College of Health Sciences and one of 20 Marquette students acting in Friday’s performance. “Some promote sexual freedom. And there are pieces on transgender and lesbian women.”

Marquette’s Student Organization Handbook states, “In those cases where a program, film or printed material is considered to be opposed to the mission of the university, there may be a requirement for the presentation of multiple points of view.”

Chris Miller, vice president for student affairs, said the play is not necessarily against Marquette’s mission, nor is it being singled out. Rather, he said including faculty members as part of the event would ensure it is “well-balanced.”

“Faculty involvement will provide students with a more focused, objective learning opportunity with varying points of view,” he said.

If the event were a faculty-sponsored discussion, organizers would not be able to raise funds, per university regulations, Miller said.

But Valentine said accepting donations is an essential element of the show.

The performance, to be held in the 2040 Lofts common room, 2040 W. Wisconsin Ave., will support the V-Day campaign, a violence awareness effort that supports women’s organizations. Money raised on Friday will benefit the UMOS Latina Resource Center of Milwaukee.

Last year, there were 4,200 V-Day events throughout the world. More than $70 million has been raised since the campaign began in 1998, according to V-Day’s Web site.

When the play was performed on campus in 2007, no donations were accepted.

Play organizers decided funding V-Day efforts was more important than the increased visibility of hosting the performance on campus, Valentine said.

But the Monologues’ controversial nature and close proximity to campus have still allowed visibility to remain high, said Kelly Petrauskas, a senior in the College of Health Sciences and assistant director of the play. Participants have promoted their performance by wearing T-shirts, utilizing Facebook and Twitter, and handing out pamphlets on Wisconsin Avenue.

Nearly 300 people are expected to attend, organizers said.

Petrauskas acted in last year’s production and believes the play’s message is important to the women of Marquette. And despite the play’s raw content, Petrauskas said she believes “The Vagina Monologues” is not in opposition to Marquette’s Catholic, Jesuit identity.

“It’s hard to say (the play) is in conflict with Catholic values when it’s essentially about helping people,” she said.