find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (1-3 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Sydney NSW 2000
· Join a dynamic Firm · Excellent career growth opportunity
View details
In-house lawyer 1-4 PAE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Leading Brand · Report to a Dynamic Legal Counsel
View details
Talking vaginas

Talking vaginas

Eight members of Melbourne’s legal community performed a benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues in April. Barrister Hilary Bonney writes.

Eight members of Melbourne’s legal community performed a benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues in April. Barrister Hilary Bonney writes.

Last week I stood up in front of 504 people on a stage and talked about vaginas.

I put on a Southern accent, sang a couple of songs, wore a feather boa and performed monologues about a man who loved to look at vaginas, a raped village girl in Bosnia and a woman who worked as a prostitute for women.

And despite all this being completely out of my normal comfort zone, I am proud to say that I loved every minute of it.

As a barrister, I have spoken about vaginas in public before, but always at a distance and in the context of other people’s trauma or criminal offending. As a woman I had never spoken about vaginas in public and certainly not in front of a hot-pink fabric vagina in a theatre in the Melbourne Town Hall.

Karen Abraham, a dynamic solicitor who works at RMIT, approached me and slyly asked if I knew any ‘legal performers’ who might want to perform in The Vagina Monologues (TVM) on 30 April.

Karen probably guessed that I was one of many lawyers who are frustrated performers. Too scared to apply to NIDA in our 20s, we enrolled in law degrees instead, and in doing so perhaps pleased our parents and staved off financial insecurity, but didn’t follow our hearts.


All for a good cause

Eve Ensler, a New York playwright and activist, wrote TVM in 1996. After interviewing more than 200 women about their sexuality and their lives, she created a witty, moving and emotional episodic play, which may only be staged according to certain rules.

TVM forms part of the VDay movement to stop violence against women and must be shown within the ‘V season’, which ends on 30 April, and the entire proceeds of ticket sales must be donated to local charities working for the prevention of violence against women.

Abraham had decided to stage TVM using only legal professionals. Her catchline was “we have a voice –let’s use it”. She planned to donate the funds raised to the Centre Against Sexual Assault, but as CASA primarily deals with women who are already victims of violence, it was decided that the funds raised would be put towards the organisation’s Secondary Schools Sexual Assault Prevention Program.

Worrying subject

I had an unambiguously worthy cause, an enthusiastic producer and a tantalising invitation. Yet still I was hesitating. I was worried. What if a potential client Googled my name and ‘vaginas’ came up? Would that affect the briefs I would get or not get?

I asked Abraham to send me the script before I finally committed myself. Once I started it, I became more worried; I was born in New Zealand and we never talk about sex.

TVM is edgy writing about wetness, women pleasing women, rapes of girls, rape in war, sexual practices and blood, shit and hair. I stopped reading and signed up. I had to. Life is rushing past and we rarely get a chance to resurrect our youthful dreams. I will probably never be asked to perform in a play again and my two daughters, at 12, were horrified that a play was written about female genitalia. The name itself was enough to set them off. “It’s disgusting,” one said. “You’re a pervert,” the other declared. Their reactions just made me more determined to be part of TVM.

A troupe of eight was formed – all lawyers save for Dr Leslie Cannold, an ethicist. Moria Rayner, Beth Wilson, Helen McKelvie, Tanja Kovacs, Taboka Finn and Judge Liz Gaynor made up the group.

Abraham and her co-producer, Selina Allam, secured a director, Bridgette Burton, and a director’s assistant, actor Marissa Bennett. Those four women took our “sorry–ass, gentle, loving vaginas” [a line from the play] and made us into performers. Over seven weeks we worked two nights a week at rehearsals, learning our lines, a couple of songs, and a myriad of techniques to ensure our voices carried the emotions of the script.

Despite our busy lives, juggling our responsibilities as lawyers, mothers and daughters, we all made all the rehearsals. We were willing students and to be in the hands of Burton, an intelligent and graceful director, was a gift.

The joy of working collaboratively with such a vibrant, funny bunch of women was immense. For the last 17 years, I have worked alone.

Our two shows were a sell-out. In one night we raised $22,400 for CASA. I have had many conversations with my daughters, and with other women, about loving our lady bits. I have used my profession to make a small difference to the world, had an enormous amount of fun, and I have been brave. Sometimes the things we do to help others, end up helping ourselves more.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Talking vaginas
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Aug 22 2017
Professionals unite in support of marriage equality
The presidents of representative bodies for solicitors, barristers and doctors in NSW have come toge...
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
Scales of Justice, Victorian County Court, retiring judges
Aug 21 2017
Replacements named for retired Vic judges
Two new judicial officers have been appointed in the Victorian County Court, following the retire...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...