‘Vulvapalooza’ to raise awareness about health

Regina Budden

The Vulvapalooza jump-started the Vagina Monologues last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with displays and activities all related to the monologues and other V-Day events. Vulvapalooza takes place the hour before every showing of the monologues, and has many informational booths on women’s rights and health.

Shanna Carlson, a sociology major at Washburn, said that the monologues and Vulvapalooza got started last year when theatre professor Sharon Sullivan and a few students met to discuss performing them. After one meeting, they decided V-Day was an event that Washburn University needed. Then the campus organizations concerned with social justice got involved, and things took off. The Vulvapalooza is about equality, said Carlson. “It’s for distributing health and information; it’s trying to raise awareness,” she said.

The displays were sponsored by OPEN, the Kansas Equality Coalition, Topeka AIDS Project, YWCA (which included the Battered Women’s Task Force), and Amnesty International. Because Washburn doesn’t have an Amnesty International group, two students from the University of Kansas came to take care of that booth, which was based around this year’s V-Day theme: stopping violence against women in the Congo.

Trey Streetman, a member of OPEN and the chairman of KEC, was there to assist in those group’s displays. He said that it was important for OPEN and KEC to be there because they fight for rights on campus and are about empowering women. “Both are about breaking down the hate stuff,” Streetman said, “Human rights. That’s what it boils down to.” Streetman said he thinks the monologues and the Vulvapalooza are good experiences. By performing these, it puts a spin on women’s negative experiences so that something good comes out of it, he said. “It let’s people realize we’re all in it together.”

“I didn’t really have what it took to relate,” Craig Schulz, vice president of OPEN, said about the monologues, but he said they were informative ways to look at women’s issues that people don’t normally hear about.

The Vulvapalooza doesn’t just include information, however. One activity includes stuffing condoms full of tennis balls. So far, two records have been set: 52 tennis balls, seven softballs.

Another activity was a board in the hall where one could draw what their vagina looked like or write what it would say or wear. Vagina apparel ranged from a 24K grill to a feather boa. And what would they say? They said “Is that it?” and “Must pass test before entering,” and everything in between.

Sarah Patterson was a first timer for Washburn University’s V-Day, although she was active last year on her former campus. The primary reason she said she’s involved is because she has a vagina, but also because, “I recognize the importance of remaining empowered and aware of women’s issues in the world.” It’s about not being afraid of one’s body, and breaking that glass barrier, she said. “It’s girl power.”