FROM READERS: Cast member reflects on experience in Vagina Monologues

Friday, February 14, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:39 a.m. CST, Friday, February 14, 2014

Mary Catherine Cooke is studying sustainable agriculture at MU. This is her first year as an MU Vagina Monologues cast member.

I joined the MU Vagina Monologues when a former cast member invited me. Being new to Mizzou, I figured it might be a good opportunity for my awkward, introverted self to meet some new people. Semi-hesitantly, I went to the first meeting and was surprised at how comfortable and open the cast members were; so open, in fact, that they were actually yelling the word “vagina.” The combination of shock and interest compelled me to continue on to auditions, and later rehearsals.

At our first rehearsal, we opened with an icebreaker, otherwise known as an introvert’s worst nightmare, with each person answering the question, “What is your favorite name for your vagina?” Slowly, the question crept closer and closer towards me, until at last, I nervously answered in a shaky voice.

I’ve grown a lot since that first rehearsal and I’ve learned that The Vagina Monologues is about so much more than just performing or raising funds (although, don’t get me wrong, its about those things too!). The Vagina Monologues is about creating safe spaces. It’s about not being scared to say the word “vagina” in public. It’s about being able to dress and look however I want. It’s about breaking down the taboos of a patriarchal society. And ultimately it’s about solidarity.

More than 100 cast members joined The Vagina Monologues this year, each of us with different needs, wants, passions, goals and inspirations. Although we were each brought to The Vagina Monologues for different and personal reasons, together we stand in solidarity to end gender violence and to give the vagina its passionate praise long overdue.

When I joined The Vagina Monologues, I had genuinely no idea what I was getting myself into. I have been shocked, sad, happy, scared and angry during my journey and have learned more about myself than I was ever willing to think possible. I cannot thank my advisors and fellow cast members enough for allowing me to laugh, cry and learn with you over these past few months. I am truly humbled to be apart of such a beautiful and dedicated community of women. Week after week, I never cease to be amazed or inspired by your passion.

While I’ve always considered myself a feminist, I had to no real reason for joining The Vagina Monologues before, other than to push myself outside of my comfort zone a little.

Now, I can proudly say that I dedicate my performance and my time to my friends, family, and fellow cast members that are survivors of sexual, domestic and mental abuse. I invite each of them to join the The Vagina Monologues cast in standing up for themselves and other survivors.

In doing so, I would also like to invite my cashier at the grocery store, the guy who sits behind me in my Plant Science class, my yoga instructor, and my boss because vaginas aren’t only relevant to people who have them.

So if you’re nervous about coming to the show, don’t be. It takes courage to stand up for something most people choose to ignore. If you’re in town this Saturday, February 15, join us in Jesse Hall at 7 p.m. as we stand in solidarity against gender violence.

And if you’re a female-bodied MU student or employee who’s inspired after seeing The Monologues to stand up and possibly step out of your comfort zone, please consider performing in the 2015 Vagina Monologues, because trust me, there’s nothing quite like yelling, “VAGINA!” with 100 strangers to test your boundaries.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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