Street: Is the Vagina Monologues the same every year?
Maha Subramaniam: The monologues are the same every year. One will be added every few years, but you’re supposed to use the same ones. But it’s different every year because of casting and you’d be surprised how a monologue can change just from a different person performing.
Kendra Carson: There are different voices and different blocking, so this year we changed a few things. For example, one monologue that used to be one is now two and one that used to be four is now five. Stuff like that.
Street: How often do you rehearse?
MS: We’ve done a lot of rehearsal. There are about 20 monologues and all of them have met at least once a week, and as of now, four or five times a week. We average about five hours a day because we have to oversee all the rehearsals.
KC: A director's job is to make it the way we want and to have a vision for the show, so we have to watch the rehearsals and tweak them so they fit that vision.
Street: What are you trying to make different about Vagina Monologues?
MS: Our exec board is very aware of the shortcomings of this movement. We want to make it more inclusive, not just race–wise or sexuality–wise. In the past few years we’ve been doing better in terms of casting. Just the nature of the name 'Vagina Monologues' makes you need to be aware that not everyone who is involved has a vagina. We want it to be a place where everyone can identify.
KC: It used to be very much about the show and raising money, and the cast wasn’t as close. We’ve worked hard to make Sunday meetings a time to become closer, and I want to make sure that solidarity comes through in the show. Even though they are monologues, we’ve tried to incorporate a lot of group casting. Feminism has changed a lot to be more inclusive and understanding, and we want to show that.
MS: Most people just associated VagMons with a vagina, and we want to make our message to end sexual violence very clear on campus.
Street: Can you elaborate on the criticisms that Vagina Monologues receives?
MS: One big thing is that we are a movement facing sexual violence. It’s not exclusive to women. All of our pieces allude to vaginas, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a vagina to be involved. We are trying to make it an inclusive environment, whether you’re trans, a man or a woman.
KC: Our show is vagina–centric, but not all women have a vagina or even want a vagina. And because it’s old and a very second–wave feminism, some of it can get an air of slight misandry.
Street: What about Vagina Monologues creates a family and safe space?
MS: I think just the nature of it. It’s not people just coming in for rehearsals. I believe that more than anything, the most important part is the Sunday meetings. We’ve been meeting since first semester, and it’s not something forced. You can see clearly how people have become so much closer just from how people are sitting. We’re talking about something so personal, and at VagMons people adore you and respect your opinions but also aren’t afraid to challenge you.
KC: At this point we’re talking about V–day movement as a whole to be more inclusive. But when you get a group that big—we’re sometimes 50 people—there are a lot of survivors. We have similar experiences that we all can relate to.
Street: What was your motivation to get involved?
KC: I saw the show freshman year so I made my way up through the crew and then the Education and Advocacy Chair my junior year. My feminism picked up speed throughout the years. I identify as being a survivor so that certainly strengthened my need to be involved.
MS: Since I come from Malaysia, I wondered if I had even heard the word vagina in my home country. So when I came to campus and saw this group, I was like, 'What is happening?' I joined because a friend was in it, but the one thing that really caused me to join was when I was talking to my Muslim friend about coming to a Sunday meeting and she said, 'No, I don’t think I would be welcome because of my religious beliefs.' I didn’t understand what she meant, and at that point I thought it would be so hypocritical of a movement that prides itself on creating a safe space to make people feel unsafe. So one of my goals for being on the board was to create that safe space.
Street: Why do you think guys are so hesitant to come to Vagina Monologues?
MS: People don’t know what exactly the core mission is. People think it’s an angry feminist shouting at you. Unless you’re fucking shitty, you’re going to come because of the cause. Sometimes they hear the word 'vagina' and shut down, but it’s about stopping sexual violence.
Street: Why is Vagina Monologues necessary on Penn's campus?
MS: I would love for it to not be necessary. And coming to Penn, I thought [sexual violence] wouldn’t happen here. But it can manifest in so many different ways; it’s not black and white. It’s crazy the amount of people who are affected by it but no one talks about it because people don’t know it’s happening. The university policies are so shitty against these cases.
KC: It’s needed for so many reasons. It’s an empowering space for women. At the end of the show, we do a call to rise and we ask that anyone who identifies as a survivor to stand up. You see Irvine Auditorium stand up and how pertinent it is on Penn’s campus. You could be sitting next to your friend and could have not known or you could be the person standing and see your other friend standing as well. It’s a really telling moment.
Street: Tell us something we don't know about vaginas.
MS: Basically, the clitoris has twice the amount of nerve endings as the corresponding part in the penis. It’s like 8,000 nerve endings versus 4,000.
KC: Also the clitoris can get an erection. It has a frenulum. It is so cool. Vaginas are muscly—they aren’t just a hole. The clitoris wraps around so many other glands in the back, you can actually get an orgasm from anal sex because there is so much going on behind the actual clitoris.
Street: Do your vaginas have name?
MS: I honestly think I say 'Yasssss' so much so I think I would name mine 'Yasss QUEEN Yaaaaaaas.' With the shorter 'Yas' at the front.
KC: I thought mine was named 'Seraphina' but I feel like my vagina's name changes. I don’t know what she’s feeling right now, or what they are feeling right now—I don’t know their pronouns.
MS: I thought it was JJ at first but someone told me that’s a boys name...okay...
Street: What is the most important thing in bed?
MS + KC: Consent!
Street: What would be your dream job?
MS: I want to be Jon Stewart except I don’t know anything about Malaysian politics and I’m going back home. Basically I want to be a satire political figure. Or Mindy Kaling.
KC: My dream job would be to write for SNL but I’m not funny enough. Or Carrie Brownstein.
MS: I would also really love a job just carrying pandas.
Street: What advice would you give to your freshman year self?
MS: Don’t buy that hula hoop! This fucking hula hoop, I was so gung–ho to exercise freshman year so I bought a hula hoop and there was no room to do it.
KC: I would tell myself to not be ashamed about the decisions I make. Although I was feminist-ish, it's really easy when you're a freshman to get that feeling of shame about hooking up with people. And that's bullshit.
Street: Finish this sentence. There are two types of people at Penn...
KC: People who believe in binaries and people who don’t.
MS: Friendship next level achieved is when someone talks about poop. There's people who talk about poop and people who don’t.