Amy Roberts: Monologues and dialogue
In college I had to take a public speaking course and I remember my professor saying that most people fear public speaking more than they fear dying. I found this statistic a bit odd; how could anyone be more afraid to say something in front of a crowd than drown, or be eaten by a lion, or get run over by a bus? Those all sounded like far worse fates to me.
Call it middle child syndrome, but I’ve never shy about speaking in public, and in my early twenties I was probably a bit overly confident that whatever I had to say deserved an audience. The more ears, the better. In fact, my ability to grab a microphone and start talking into it served me quite well, considering I began my career as a reporter and later transitioned into communications.
But speaking in public is far, far different than performing in public. And aside from a couple ex-boyfriends I was able to fool, almost everyone I know would agree I am not a performer.
So when I was asked to participate in The Vagina Monologues, it wasn’t something I eagerly agreed to. Memorizing lines, playing a part, acting — they are all vastly out of my comfort zone. The only thing further outside my comfort zone is saying “no” to Teri Orr. Coincidentally, it’s also the one way I could relate to those people who fear something more than their own death.
Casting for this localized version of the off-Broadway hit was tied more to availability than actual ability, and on Sunday, I found myself on a makeshift stage, surrounded by dozens of empowering, uplifting and supportive women donating their time and talent to raise money for the Peace House.
The play is based on dozens of interviews conducted by playwright Eve Ensler. It’s funny, empowering, depressing and poignant all at once. Scenes range from exploring sexuality, to rape, abuse, relationships and self-love. Long before the #MeToo movement, The Vagina Monologues created a new dialogue about what it’s really like to be a woman. Back then, they didn’t have hashtags. They had to rehearse and perform and sell tickets to get people talking about violence and abuse against females.
From this play, a charity called V-Day began. Its mission is simple: To end violence against women and girls around the world. To help achieve this, each February the play is produced in various towns and cities and villages across the globe, with proceeds going to local programs, often shelters and rape crisis centers.
The timing of all of this felt right. There’s been a cultural shift bubbling for months. Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and Rob Porter are just a few of the men who have helped bring the movement to a boil. And I’ve allowed myself to get excited about this shift. Mostly for those who might get to bypass all the crap. I’m excited that maybe my niece will never be dismissed in a boardroom. And someday teenage girls won’t be bullied for not giving it up, or young women won’t be slut shamed for enjoying sex. I look forward to the day married women won’t be encouraged by their religious leaders to stay with an abusive husband. The hope is real.
But the reality is realer.
After we all took a bow on Sunday night, I went home and caught up on the news I’d missed over the weekend. Olympic results dominated the website I was on. It skewed heavily in favor of results of the men’s competitions. The president seemingly defended two men accused of domestic violence by tweeting, “lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation.” This despite the very real and corroborated evidence supporting the allegations of abuse. But even more than these somewhat predictable headlines, the one that troubled me the most was that a movie franchise dedicated to depicting a woman as a subservient sex object grossed over $136 million at the box office, and over 75 percent of the audience for Fifty Shades Freed was female.
We’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.