Alia Roth ’14 set out to create a video that would raise awareness about Connecticut College’s production of the Vagina Monologues and encourage men to attend and get involved. She ended up doing much, much more.
In the video, 100 male Connecticut College students are asked, “Why are vaginas important to you?” The result is a powerful, provocative and sometimes awkward 8-minute piece that has sparked conversations about vaginas, women, sex and consent on college campuses across the country and even across oceans.
“As an activist, I am constantly trying to think of innovative ways to reach those who may not pay attention to these issues – and get them to care,” said Roth, who last May was honored with the Gail Burns-Smith "Dare to Dream" Scholarship/ Stipend Award by Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. (CONNSACS).
If the number of hits on the video – more than 90,000 in just five days – is any indication, Roth has certainly caught people’s attention.
Buzzfeed says the “endearing and uplifting” video “forces us to think of women and vaginas as something more than sexual objects,” while the Huffington Post says “… we love that these young men were willing to share, on-camera, what vaginas mean to them outside of sex.” The now-viral video has also been reported by Jezebel (in an article by alumna Jazmine Hughes ’12), Cosmopolitan UK and several other media outlets.
Roth partnered with John Dargan ’14, an aspiring filmmaker with a self-designed major in media studies, to produce the film. With the support of the College’s student life staff and under the guidance of Darcie Folsom, the College’s director of sexual violence prevention and advocacy, Roth reached out to men from all different groups on campus, from the soccer team to campus clubs to the Student Government Association. All of them, she said, were eager to participate in the film.
“It really reaffirmed for me the incredible male advocates and allies that we have on this campus,” Roth said.
The men’s answers alternate between funny, sweet and empowering. Responses include “Because vaginas have the power to save the world” and “Spent some time in a vagina in '92 — it was homey,” for example.
“I was blown away with the incredibly heartwarming and beautiful answers,” Roth says. “So many of these men brought me to tears with how open and passionate they were in expressing their unwavering support for women.”
Roth says she has received emails and Facebook messages from students at colleges all across the country who are interested in starting similar campaigns on their campuses. She has also been invited to present at the “Speak Up to Take Rape Culture Down” conference at Harvard University Nov. 2. The College's production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues is Feb. 22-24, 2014.