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Vagina monologues dress rehearsal Credit: Meredith Stern , Meredith Stern

Past tables piled with lacy underwear, saucy buttons and vagina-shaped lollipops, the auditorium fills with an anticipatory hum.

For the next hour or so, everyone’s attention will focus on a normally private subject: vaginas.

The Vagina Monologues, which took place at Irvine Auditorium Friday and Saturday night, featured 17 vignettes addressing various issues of women’s self-image and abuse.

“These are completely in-your-face things that women think about, things that might be talked about behind closed doors, but the fact that there’s a performance that is so well-attended is great,” Wharton senior Sachi Sobti said.

Though the lively crowd at Friday’s performance was mostly women, a scattering of men in the audience testified that the movement didn’t scare away all of Penn’s testosterone.

“Obviously guys deal with girls,” College junior Arka Mallela said. “Guys may feel more uncomfortable coming in and discussing vaginas, but I think people at Penn are mature enough to handle this.”

As part of the international V-Day movement, the monologues aimed to raise awareness about struggles facing women around the world.

“I think a lot of people view the show and the movement as this kind of man-bashing, scary feminist movement, but it’s really not,” College senior and producer Mady Glickman said. “In general, I think that we’re talking about women’s issues, but women’s issues are human issues.”

Although she supported the movement’s goal, College junior Simcha Katsnelson questioned the method The Vagina Monologues used to spread the message on campus.

“I think that some of the skits were actually counterproductive,” she said. “For example, having the audience yell ‘cunt.’ I don’t think it reclaims the word, I think it makes it laughable. It takes the whole issue and puts it in a perspective where people can’t take it seriously.”

Judging by the hearty and occasionally raucous laughter sweeping through Irvine Friday night, The Vagina Monologues drew strongly on laughs to spread its message. Katsnelson agreed humor presents a way to raise awareness but added that it has to be used effectively.

“It was done well in the show but definitely not on Locust Walk,” she noted.

Strolling down Locust Walk in the past week might have brought an encounter with a fleshy pink figure yelling about vaginas. Both the vagina costume and certain aspects of the movement elicited mixed reactions.

Sobti felt the marketing campaign “set the tone for the performance.”

“It was explicit, it was funny, it was kind of in-your-face, which is exactly what the performance is like,” she added.

Despite the generally humorous tone of the show, the audience occasionally fell silent, struck by a decidedly serious scene.

Noting the mention of serious issues such as female genital mutilation and real-life inspirations for the skits, Sobti found the show effective for its less comedic moments also.

“I think maybe that gave the performance a bit more of a serious tone, and I think those are really the monologues that I specifically will remember,” she said.

Whether the serious or humorous notes stick the most, the show is far from merely a quick bit of entertainment. Glickman stresses the focus on awareness of issues facing women, a message she hopes the Penn campus will absorb beyond the nights of the performances.

“This is not just a two-week thing,” she said. “There’s not just a two-week movement that all of a sudden we’re empowered to say the word ‘vagina’ on the Walk. The show is one part of our campaign [to combat sexual violence],” Glickman added.

This year’s Vagina Monologues raised over $43,000 for Women Organized Against Rape, Philadelphia’s only rape crisis center.

Despite feeling The Vagina Monologues didn’t quite go about creating its desired “sexual revolution” the right way, Katsnelson recognized the problem in society that the show targets. In fact, this was the reason the movement concerned her.

“I feel like people in our society have a really twisted conception of sex. Instead of talking about women being liberal with their bodies, we should have the opposite and talk about how sex is such a beautiful thing.”

“It’s not a commodity,” Katsnelson said. “It’s not something that you can just give to everyone like you give out a puss pop to everyone.”

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