Annual show confronts taboo feminine issues
The Santa Clara
May 4, 2017
Two decades after its premiere, the Vagina Monologues continue to incite important discussions about consent, menstruation and the female orgasm. And always at Santa Clara’s annual production, it continues to raise controversy.
Every year, the official Speaker Policy of the University must be recited aloud before the start of the Vagina Monologues.
It reads: “The presence of a guest speaker on the campus of SCU does not necessarily imply approval or endorsement by the University of the views expressed by the guest speaker or by anyone else present at the event.”
The play created by Eve Ensler, features monologues written by and performed by women, capturing a multitude of female experiences. Since its first production in 1996, the play has been performed in 140 countries.
Despite its global popularity, the play has had somewhat of a controversial history at Santa Clara. In 2009, in his first year as president of the university, Father Michael Engh, S.J. denied the request for it to be held on campus.
“Such university endorsement and support for the play typically results in controversy that often sidetracks the conversation away from violence against women and toward other, unrelated matters such as Catholic identity and academic freedom,” Engh wrote in a letter to the students that year.
However, in 2010, after numerous discussions between students and the administration, the Vagina Monologues was allowed on campus with caveats—one being the aforementioned disclaimer.
As Tedd Vanadolik, director for the Center for Student Involvement, explained over an email, the statement is required at certain events, no matter what the university’s stance is on the issue.
“A reason why such a statement is required to be recited at the Vagina Monologues is because, while the university supports the program to be hosted, there may be people in the SCU community and particularly in the audience who may not agree with some or all of the content of the program,” Vanadolik said.
Another event on campus, which necessitates the disclaimer, is the annual Drag Show, put on by the student organization Queers & Allies. Vanodolik could not recall any other additional events on campus in which the host was required to read a disclaimer this academic year.
However, in addition to the statement, the university also requires the Vagina Monologues to have an educational component, according to Annick Gerard, a junior at Santa Clara and the co-chair of the organization. To meet that demand, the Vagina Monologues includes a talk-back panel facilitated by Campus Ministry and the group’s faculty advisor.
The Vagina Monologues production, however, is only one of several on-campus groups and events that the university labels as contentious.
The Slut Walk—an event put on by Feminists for Justice for Sexual Assault Awareness Month—has likewise been deemed a “controversial event” by the university, explained Sarah Locklin, the president of the organization. She had to deal with additional paperwork and add an “educational component” to the walk—which she felt unnecessary.
The Violence Prevention Program (VPP), which operates out of the Wellness Center, is the studentrun sexual assault prevention and awareness organization that seeks to educate about the different kinds of sexual assault and what it means to be a survivor. While Emma Hyndman, president of VPP, noted that she and her organization do not face much administrative oversight, she nonetheless believes that the administration could be more proactive in their positions.
“The administration really wants to hear what we have to say and wants to help, but it’s always up to students to make it happen, which is pretty unfair because we’re supposed to be students and enjoy our time here and not being sexually assaulted shouldn’t be a good thing that happens. It should be a given,” Hyndman said.
Locklin expressed a similar sentiment, but also noted that she believes that “higher-ups” are concerned with questioning the Catholic traditions.
“The university labels an event they think is too ‘edgy’ or ‘out there’ as controversial, so they keep a close eye on it and monitor anything that might make them ‘look bad,’” Locklin said.
In 2007, the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic group devoted to protecting traditional values, complained to then-President Paul Locatelli, S.J., about the Vagina Monologues being held on campus, calling it “morally offensive.”
Since then, the university has lessened its restrictions on the Vagina Monologues by allowing it to be on campus, as previously mentioned. But, for Gerard, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
“I hope (the Vagina Monologues) becomes something that is not controversial on campus, but a normal, regular event that empowers women,” said the co-chair.
For Gerard, she sees the the Vagina Monologues, in and of itself, as an educational experience—and one that has benefited her personally.
“It helped me to realize how much I love being a woman,” the junior said. “It has shaped me to become a feminist and to realize that women are wonderful and powerful people.”
The Vagina Monologues will be shown at the Locatelli Student Activities Center on May 5 and 6. Both shows begin at 7:30 P.M. Tickets will be $10 at the door and all proceeds will be donated to Homesafe, a local shelter for women affected by domestic violence.
Contact Lindsay Tenes at ltenes@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.