The Feminist Student Union will replace the “Vagina Monologues” with a new student-written performance this spring, designed to include students across gender identities.
The production, titled “This ___ Body,” will contain 15 to 20 student-written pieces split into three 90-minute shows performed from Feb. 16 to 18. Student leaders said they replaced the usual “Vagina Monologues” with this more student-centric concept to allow performers to share their experiences with gender identity and objectification on campus.
Negar Esfandiari, co-president of FSU, said she wanted to produce the show to be more inclusive and representative of the GW community.
“I’m looking forward to it being an open space,” she said. “I hope productions like this help people who are feeling excluded.”
Although the “Vagina Monologues” is widely recognized as a feminist work, Esfandiari said she felt it excluded the issues that those with different gender identities, like transgender women, face. Feminist groups across the nation have also shared concerns about the title of the show being too limiting in its ability to represent women.
“The title of that show was very dependent on a body part which not all who identify as women have. And not all people who do have that body part identify as women,” Esfandiari said.
Esfandiari said the new show’s title includes a blank space to give performers the liberty to define their own bodies, instead of feeling forced into a set script.
The performances will range from monologues to acted stories, Esfandiari said. The show is designed to allow any students to open a dialogue about their identities and the issues they face.
“It’s good to see people talking about things that they may not have felt comfortable talking about,” she said.
In the past, proceeds from the show have gone to local nonprofit organizations like the Rape Crisis Center and HIPS, an institution that raises awareness for female sex workers and transgender women. FSU is considering donating this show’s proceeds to Casa Ruby, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in D.C., Esfandiari said.
While the submission deadline for pieces has passed, FSU is still accepting applications from volunteers to manage the show backstage or design sets, she added.
Although the “Vagina Monologues” has been a staple of the student organization for five years, group members say they are excited to pilot the new concept.
Phedra Benoit, a junior and member of FSU, said the show will attract more viewers and appeal to a more diverse audience than the “Vagina Monologues” did.
“It’ll be a lot more personal and inclusive show, so there will be more pieces that more of the student body can relate to,” Benoit said. “It feels really good to write your own piece, but also a little bit terrifying. It’s like we will all get up on that stage and open our hearts up to the audience.”
Benoit added that they performed in the “Vagina Monologues” for the past two years, but the new showcase gives students the chance to choose a mood for their pieces and express their emotions more than a script could allow.
“Women’s spaces should be meant for all women,” Benoit said. “This show is going to be a safe space for anybody and everybody to express themselves and really get a chance to see and experience what every other woman is and has gone through. I think it’ll be really empowering.”