Talking about taboos

Published On: February 23, 2018 01:11 PM NPT By: Anweiti Upadhyay

For those who missed earlier performances, The Vagina Monologues is back. V-Day Kathmandu’s The Vagina Monologues Alumni are hosting the 2018 Vagina Monologues, which is the fourth rendition of The Vagina Monologues being conducted in Kathmandu as a fundraiser for an original Nepali production [this summer]. All proceeds will go towards the production as well as sessions on women’s bodily integrity, and a vagina workshop.

The Week’s Anweiti Upadhyay caught up with Bivishika Bhandari, mentor of V-Day Kathmandu’s The Vagina Monologues (TVM) and also one of the 12 performers, to talk about her experiences during the previous three years as well as discuss this year’s event.

How impactful do you think the previous renditions of TVM hosted by V-Day Kathmandu has been in the Nepali community?
I would say The Vagina Monologues has made a striking impact on everyone, be it the viewers or the people involved in the production. I have heard quite a few people being impressed and enlightened after watching a show throughout the past three years. But the biggest impact it makes is probably on the performers themselves. Almost all the performers have confessed to feeling empowered and gaining confidence after taking part in TVM and, in a way, it really does really change your lives. We take the stories, poems, and monologues and relate it to our own lives and that brings about a realistic approach to our performances because none of us are trained theater artists. Also, performing a show like TVM takes a lot of courage and being able to relate it in our own lives gives us that motivational boost. 

What has been the biggest challenge in putting up TVM?
Last year we had a performer who worked in a Christian based organization. She had a particularly angry monologue to deliver and a few of her co-workers had come to watch a show. She executed her piece brilliantly but she got into a lot of trouble at her office for participating in TVM. Her workplace blew it out of proportion and the issue was also all over social media. The aforementioned organization was demanding she either publicly apologize for participating in TVM or resign. The issues presented in TVM are things she believes in so she owned up to her beliefs and resigned from her job. This incredibly strong woman is now working for another company and is back with us for this year’s show.

How has the public feedback been for TVM?
Like I said, people have been impressed and moved. Also, we are taking it as a good sign that our audience consists of an approximately equal number of males and females. It is good to know that men in our society are also concerned about women issues and are engaging in conversations about it. Another thing is that our audience is substantially young, which again I’m taking as a positive aspect because they are the future of Nepal and the world. And if they are aware and concerned about these issues, they will bring forth a change in this area. There are also a fair number of couples in the audience that is always a plus point. We always encourage viewers to bring their partners along. So I believe it’s all good. 

Can you tell us something more about this year’s shows?
In the previous years, we stuck to theater houses to stage TVM but this year we decided to be more radical with our venue choices. Purple Haze is essentially a rock bar and that’s a hangout for a lot of youngsters especially on Friday evenings. And Patan Museum and Yalamaya (Dhokaima Cafe) are within one of Kathmandu’s most important cultural sites. Here we are targeting the most culturally inclined individuals. It’s no secret that our culture is extremely conservative regarding women’s issues. While I’m a firm believer in upholding culture and tradition, I also believe we have to be smart and considerate about it. Banishing menstruating women from kitchens and, in extreme cases, even their residence and boycotting the queer community are destructive and amoral. People have to be more aware and considerate about these issues. That’s what we are targeting with this year’s show. 

TVM is also a fundraising program. Would you elaborate on that?
TVM is an appreciable and significant global movement but we want to do more to spread the word about women’s issues. The organizers for TVM have to follow these strict rules about when and how to conduct it and one of the very first rules is to only conduct it in February. Moreover, not a single monologue by Ensler covers menstruation properly and that is a big issue in Nepal. 

Just Enough is a company that will be registered with V-Day Kathmandu alums in the future because we want to do more things like organize vagina workshops, Nepali production of original stories, etc. and not just be limited to a yearly production of V-Day Kathmandu, The Vagina Monologues. So, the profits will go towards funding Just Enough. 

Just Enough because we want to create a “just” society and promote the idea of only having “enough” things and rather focusing on sharing our abundance. We also want to scream out loud and say that we have had “Just Enough” of this violence against women. We want to create a community where we can share our wealth and knowledge so that we all have “Just Enough” and not more than what we need. It’s time for us to be sustainable and think about the planet, people, and profit together.

What is it? 
The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler that delves into topics traditionally considered taboo for women. These include consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, direct and indirect encounters with reproduction, sex work, and various other such topics through the eyes of women across different cultures, ages, and races. 

Theme for the year 
Rise, Resist, Unite

When and Where

Friday,February 23 - Purple Haze, Thamel (5pm to 7pm)

Saturday, February 24 - Yalamaya (Dhokaima Cafe), Patan Dhoka (12pm to 2pm)

Saturday, February 24 - Patan Museum, Patan (5pm to 7pm)

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