The atmosphere in the Horn Gallery last Saturday night was warm and welcoming. People sat informally on pillows and bean bags on the ground, chatting and eating cookies as hip hop and R&B played in the background. Eventually, the chatter and music died down and the Femme Monologues’ honest and intimate evening of storytelling began.
The Femme Monologues is a storytelling event, founded by Sisterhood, that welcomes women and femme-identifying people to share stories about any facet of their lives or identities. Last Saturday’s gathering marked the Femme Monologues’ first storytelling session.
The Femme Monologues were partly inspired by Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a collection of monologues about female sexuality, but aimed to promote a greater sense of inclusivity
“We didn’t want it to just be women,” Sisterhood president Jasmine Wilson ’19 said. “We wanted it be other voices that are frequently not heard. So we decided we wanted it to be women and femme-identifying people, so including non-binary folks who still identify as femme.”
The evening began with a series of anonymously submitted stories read by volunteers. People then took the floor to read their own monologues. Stories took a variety of forms, poetry and prose, and covered a variety of topics. One speaker shared a monologue where she combined poetry and martial arts to talk about finding strength in a masculine environment. Another monologue took the form of an open letter written to “the black girl,” offering support and understanding. A different speaker shared a poem about the painful side of life as a non-binary person. A man joined the storytelling as well, reading a collection of poems he had written about his mother.
As the evening progressed, the sense of intimacy in the room increased. Eventually the microphone was cast to the side as people spoke to the audience casually, like they would with a group of friends. People who had not planned to speak found themselves at the front of the room, reading recent drafts of poetry or sharing personal reflections about their identity.
The audience met each speaker with incredible warmth. and supported them through moments of vulnerability by nodding and cheering along. When a person finished a monologue they were welcomed back into the audience with snaps and support.
“Seeing the unity of people who are not necessarily a part of Sisterhood there and sharing their own stories and then seeing the overlap between things we talked about and things people who were not necessarily a part of the organization talked about … made me really happy,” Selam Habtemariam ’22, a member of Sisterhood, said.
The Femme Monologues was presented along with a photo series from the 1 in 3 Campaign, a project that works to destigmatize abortion. The series features a striking set of photos of a diverse group of women alongside their stories about their abortions.
Though the event was successful, Sisterhood is already thinking about how to improve it for the future.
“Now it’s about how to reach people. How are you not continuing to preach to the choir? How are you reaching people that aren’t always already around listening?” Wilson said. “So that’s kind of the challenge now, but we are really happy that it was successful.”