Section: archive

Gender and sexuality on the hill: SPEAK to give voice

By Sarah Lehr

The coordinators of SPEAK: Voices from the Hill want to know: if your junk had an anthem, what would it be? Crozier Center for Women sent out emails asking such questions to pique interest in their upcoming production. SPEAK’s coordinators ラ McKinley Sherrod ’14, Colleen Damerell ’13, Madeline Jobrack ’13 and Jane Jongeward ’14 ラ plan to play some of the songs which pay tribute to respondents’ genitalia while audience members file into Peirce Pub before the performances on this Friday and Saturday night. SPEAK features monologues written and performed by Kenyon students about issues including gender, sexuality and body image.

SPEAK’s coordinators changed their query from “what would your vagina’s anthem be?” to “what would your junk’s anthem be?” in an effort to make men and students with non-binary identities feel welcome. “It’s a fine line because we do want to keep the focus on women, but I think it’s important to include people who want to join the forum,” said Sherrod.

This year, a Kenyon man wrote two pieces and another is performing. Sherrod and Damerell are enthusiastic about this male involvement

“I think a lot of these issues aren’t as present in the forefront of men’s minds as they are in women’s,” said Sherrod. “Most women can think of an experience right off the bat when you say, ムhave you ever been discriminated against?’ Maybe men don’t have that experience, but maybe their mom did. We would love that story. Talk about the women that are important to you. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean that you don’t know women, love women. Or talk about your experience with masculinity. Maybe what society views as a man isn’t how you feel.”

SPEAK’s cast is a multifarious bunch. “We have a good mix of people,” said Damerell. “We have senior drama majors who are doing this and we have people who don’t really go on stage ever.”

Some cast members are performing their own pieces and some are performing pieces written by others. The stories range from struggles with a sexuality that doesn’t fall neatly into a label of either gay or straight, to sexual assault, to not wanting to grow up. At one point in the show, performers simply list slang for genitalia.

“We definitely have some pieces that are very intense, but there are others that are just fun,” said Damerell. “There’s a piece about studying in the library and looking at someone you really like and, you know, want to bone.”

Whatever the content, SPEAK’s coordinators wanted the production to give voice to Kenyon students. Last year was Crozier’s first production of SPEAK. In years prior, Crozier put on Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. But, because Ensler doesn’t want her work to be misrepresented, she has strict stipulations about how the Monologues must be performed.

Sherrod said of the Vagina Monologues, “It winds up being the exact same thing and it doesn’t allow for Kenyon-specific, local dialogue. We just have to assume that the things that Eve thinks are important are important to us.”

Critics sometimes refer to the narrowness of the Vagina Monologues as Ensler’s “monopoly on vaginas.”

Damerell said, “Some people find that some of the monologues can be a little bit problematic in that they may not represent the experiences of women of color or queer women or people who maybe who don’t fit into a binary.”

Sherrod echoed this sense of the Vagina Monologues’ limitations. “I think it’s an incredibly powerful production that has affected a lot of women’s feminism and lives. It’s also kind of heterocentric. It’s a little reductive. It’s women as their vaginas,” she said.

So, students came up with the idea for SPEAK while they were chatting in Crozier.

Sherrod remembered how ambitious this new idea seemed: “We said, ムLet’s write our own. Let’s see if we can even do this.'”

They set a date and decided that if they didn’t get enough submissions by then, they would scrap the project entirely. There would be no SPEAK and no Vagina Monologues.12

[starbox id=”Sarah Lehr”]


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at