I met with her to ask her a few questions about her experience and how it may have affected her, with a particular emphasis on her cultural background.
HC: So what made you decide to take part in the Vagina Monologues?
Nancy: I first noticed the Women of Amherst online under the clubs and organisations of Amherst, and then during the club fair I signed up for it. I had a really great time right from the start because the women were really friendly and diverse. I took part in the show my first year.
HC: Has your experience this year been any different from your experience last year?
Nancy: As a director, you see the show from a very different perspective. It’s an entirely different level of commitment because it’s more than just the acting and choosing of your pieces. There are four of us [directors], each doing a different part of the show to bring it all together. I did the actual programme and the ticketing. It’s basically a lot more of the backstage work. You also get about 9 to 10 pieces to direct. It really allows you to interact with the performers on a different level.
HC: So did you get to choose your own pieces?
Nancy: Well, how it works is that each of the members has 6 pieces rated in priority from 1-6, so we make sure you get 2-3 depending on how highly you rated them.
HC: Did you contribute to the writing process?
Nancy: I did contribute; the pieces are anonymous though. The writing process was a very amazing experience as well; all the directors are really helpful and supportive. I wrote last year too.
HC: Has coming from a different culture had any effect on your experience, both in participating and writing?
Nancy: Well it kind of goes back to the question you asked about whether this year was any different from last year. I came from a relatively conservative background. The issues that Women of Amherst were talking about, I didn’t initially feel comfortable talking about. But yeah, it’s definitely refreshing and eye opening to listen to other people’s experiences. It’s not necessarily even about the pieces, just the very diverse people you get to know, the friends you make. I became a Peer Advocate for Sexual Respect this semester. I feel like my awareness of issues related to sexual assault and relationship abuse has increased so much! There’s just a point where you realise how ignorant you’ve been, maybe because of my upbringing or maybe just because I hadn’t been paying attention. But once you realise that ignorance, it’s very hard not be vocal and advocate change. I feel like it’s really hard for me to know that people I’ve known for a year, my friends, have been assaulted on campus- that’s really hard to know. Initially, you’re in a state of shock, but then you begin to think about what you can do and what kind of positive changes you can affect; that’s when I became a PA. I’ve found it to be a really valuable experience.
HC: Does that make you feel like you want to make a difference back home? Change people’s awareness at home too?
Nancy: That’s actually a very interesting point because I started thinking about that this semester. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but this semester I tried to invite some of my international friends [to the Vagina Monologues], but they were hesitant because they said they’d feel awkward – both of them were male and also from conservative backgrounds. I even received comments from some of my friends that I wasn’t following social norms by directing the Vagina Monologues. I was really shocked, because these are my friends from Amherst, but at the same time I can definitely understand their discomfort. But I feel like once you’re exposed to something that’s fact, it’s very unsettling for you to just sit there and not do anything about it. I’m taking a class on human rights and our final project is on domestic violence. I’m looking at some statistics, some legal barriers and legal actions in China; I realise there’s very limited legal protection for women in China. People tend to assume that domestic violence and sexual assault are supposed to be private. I don’t know what I want to do in the future but I feel that my experience with Women of Amherst has definitely increased my awareness on being a woman. It’s like I’ve reconsolidated different parts of my identity that are cantered around my womanhood. It’s been really empowering and I would want to do something in my life that relates to being a woman.
HC: Thank you Nancy, this has been really great!