MU senior gives final performance after participating in Vagina Monologues for four years

Vagina Monologues participant Clarissa Hughes: “If you see me now, I’m a superwoman, but back then I was very naive to what it meant to be a feminist.”

Senior Clarissa Hughes said when entering MU as a freshman, she didn’t know what it meant to be a feminist.

“As females, we are taught to not take up space or talk about our vaginas,” Hughes said. “The first lesson I learned was to not be afraid to say the word ‘vagina’ and to not be afraid to take up space as a female.”

Her involvement in the MU production of the “Vagina Monologues” when she was a freshman sparked Hughes to become more knowledgeable about what it meant to be a feminist.

The Vagina Monologues is a play by Eve Ensler that features a collection of monologues from diverse female voices. The monologues discuss sex, love, violence, orgasms, various names for “vagina” and more.

The RSVP Center’s STARS sponsored the play and 90 percent of the proceeds went to the L.E.A.D. Institute and True North Women’s Shelter. The remaining 10 percent goes to the V-Day movement, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women and girls.

She initially joined the cast because she wanted to get involved in the theater community at MU. Since she was double majoring in psychology and theater, she thought that Vagina Monologues would be a great way to practice her acting skills. What she took from joining the cast was much more than theater experience.

Her role freshman year was in the “Reclaiming Cunt” monologue. The scene features a group of women repeating the word to showcase how it should not have a negative connotation. They break the word apart by letter while also comparing it to other positive terms and bodily functions that start with the same letter.

After her first performance, Hughes felt empowered and as if she was beginning to understand what it meant to be a feminist.

“I felt extremely empowered after performing, it inspired me to find my inner feminist,” Hughes said. “Knowing the history behind the play and seeing so many people who have done the Vagina Monologues and their relationship to the show inspired me to find my inner feminist.”

Since her freshman year, Hughes has done multiple monologues. Her favorite performance was during sophomore year when she performed “Angry Vagina” because it was the first time her parents came to see the play.

“It was the first time my dad heard me curse and it was everything,” Hughes said. “At first I was nervous because I didn’t know how they would react because in high school I was very naive to female empowerment. I wouldn’t say because they didn’t teach me, but because they were naive as well.”

With three years of experience under her belt, Hughes had no problem delivering her final performance on Saturday. Her monologue this year was “Outrageous Vagina Fact,” in which Hughes and her partner sarcastically compare certain states’ vibrator bans to the legality and availability of guns in the U.S.

The atmosphere at the monologues was just as Hughes had described: empowering. The play was performed in Jesse Hall Auditorium to a nearly full house. There were two acts and 23 performances in total that featured a cast of over 60 women delivering monologues ranging from sexual violence testimonies to body positivity to sexual experiences and revelations.

One of the performances, titled “The Woman who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” consisted of six women discussing how much they loved to pleasure other women. The monologue ended with the women moaning while taking off their silk robes and revealing their lingerie.

Another performance, “Crooked Braid,” brought to light how Native American women were more at risk to receive sexual violence and abuse at the hands of men. It told the story of a woman’s relationship with her abusive husband and how it took many years of abuse for her to finally get to leave him.

Hughes said that she’ll miss the many different aspects of the play.

“The buildup and the excitement and being surrounded by all the girls is one of my favorite parts,” Hughes said. “I’ll also miss rehearsals because they aren’t like typical rehearsals, they are half rehearsing and half educating. We have our beneficiaries come in and tell us what they do so that we can tell others where the money goes to.”

Hughes has also been an active participant in other feminist organizations at MU. Hughes has even founded her own body positivity organization on campus called “Fluffy Girls.” The purpose of the organization is to both spread and discuss body positivity and to “aspire full-figured women as fierce high-esteemed individuals,” according to the organization's Twitter. After graduating in May, she aspires to become a children’s psychologist, with theater as her backup career.

‘If you see me now, I’m a superwoman, but back then I was very naïve to what it meant to be a feminist,” Hughes said.

Edited by Waverly Colville | wcolville@themaneater.com

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