On Thursday night, an original play titled The Jane Doe Project was performed at Aquinas College. The play was written by Aquinas student Cheyna Roczkowski in December after the Aquinas administration would not allow The Vagina Monologues to be performed on campus due its controversial sexual content.
In response, Roczkowski chose to write a play based on the experiences of Aquinas women (students, faculty and alumni, shared with the student writer and included anonymously in the play), meant to raise awareness about the issue of violence against women.
The play was part of a week of events, including a movie night and letter writing campaign on Aquinas’ campus. Before the performance was a cupcake sale, in which $381 were raised. The proceeds will be divided between several women’s organizations in the area. There was a high turnout, including members of the Aquinas Administration.
The play was a series of monologues performed by eight female students dressed in black, all of whom entered the stage saying “I am Jane Doe,” who was established to be a “New Feminist,” a faceless person to represent all women. Silence as the enemy was the theme of the play–its goal to open up conversation about violence against women, and “fight the system” through education.
The stories varied in style and topic: a woman raped by her brother at a young age, a diary entry of a lesbian degraded and raped by a male, a series of letters burned on stage detailing an abusive relationship, a mother and daughter grappling with the daughter having been conceived by rape, and a woman whose sister had to have reconstructive surgery during an abusive relationship. In between were comedic sketches about happy relationships, bad pick up lines, and working out at the gym. There were also various derogatory phrases from around the world highlighted throughout the performance (“Words are for women, actions are for men.”)
The stories were powerful, for their content and the knowledge that they had actually happened to women in the Aquinas community. Although none of the students in the play were experienced actors, all of the parts were read passionately and effectively.
The Jane Doe Project occurred during the second Pro-Life Awareness Week of the academic year at Aquinas. The abortion issue came up, as one student defiantly stated that being pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion.
A running theme throughout the play was the idea of a “New Feminist,” similar to third-wave feminism – the idea that wearing revealing clothes and make up (“high heels, red lipstick, curve accentuating jeans and showing a little cleavage”) should be empowering. Many who identify as feminists, however, would argue that societal pressure to cover their faces with products and wear clothes that reveal their body is extremely disempowering, and prefer not to consume these products.
The play was also hetero-normative, as every romantic couple portrayed (notably the positive, healthy examples as well as the abusive) was heterosexual.
Overall, The Jane Doe Project brought up an important issue, but its message was convoluted by some mainstream societal ideas.