“Vagina is a dirty word culturally. Penis you can say as many times as you want but vagina’s a bad word.”
–Grey’s Anatomy writer Krista Vernoff on the podcast 1/19/07
So, it’s Valentine’s Day & I’m feeling down. Why? Not because I don’t have a valentine (I could care less, honestly) but because it’s more of all those not-at-Marist emo feelings that keep plaguing me. Today marks the first Feb. 14 in 5 years that I haven’t been gotten to talk about vaginas.
When I first auditioned for The Vagina Monologues back in Feb. ’03 (freshman year), I did it because I had taken a long-needed break from doing theatre & was looking to get back on stage. When I got in, I accepted the part & did the show mainly because it pissed my mother off royally. And when I say she was angry that I would dare do something against the conservative Catholic mold she & my father had so carefully brought me & my sisters up in, I mean she was a-n-g-r-y. She came to see the show but was so mortified and embarrassed over the subject matter that she completely & totally missed the REAL point of The Vagina Monologues.
The point isn’t to bash men. It isn’t some giant lesbian-fest, nor is it a bunch of obnoxious hairy-arm-pitted chicks burning their bras, screaming “I am woman!” Just look at me. I’m definitely not any of those things at all. No, the message of The Vagina Monologues is both loud AND subtle. To quote one of the monologues, it’s about “loving [your] woman self.” Brief history/synopsis: Eve Ensler conducted hundreds of interviews with women of all ages, races, nationalities, occupations, social status, etc. about their experiences & thoughts on all sorts of subjects that women deal with like sex, childbirth, dating, marriage, menstruation, masturbation, grooming down there, the generation gap, fears, peeves, domestic abuse, being a casualty of war, favorite nicknames for their lady part, etc. And as the prologue tells us, “Women secretly loved talking about their vaginas, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before.” She then took the interviews and made them into a series of monologues addressing subject. Some are very funny, some are very shocking, some are extremely poignant and some are very depressing. All are very powerful.
The word ‘vagina’ is an interesting word. As Ms. Vernoff said, it’s considered to culturally be a dirty word. Perhaps it’s because it’s not considered ladylike for women to discuss such things and men just get embarrassed to even acknowledge that the female sex organ even has a name (vagina=sensitivity=intimacy=freaks people out). Yet we have no problem calling people cowardly/weak people “pussies” or bitchy people “cunts”. In show context, ‘vagina’ is used as a metaphor in many cases because it’s a taboo word that gets people’s attention. After all, the vagina is the ultimate sign of femininity, so why shouldn’t it be used?
I participated in the show in 2003 & 2004 as a cast member. In 2004, when I was elected to the e-board for Marist College Council on Theatre Arts (MCCTA) as the Managing Director of Experimental Theatre (ETG), I inherited the task of being the liasion between MCCTA & the V-day organization. In 2005, I directed it and in 2006, I was lucky enough to do one of my favorite monologues as my swan song (“The Flood”).
Back to what the spirit of Vag really is. The true spirit of The Vagina Monologues is camaraderie. It’s for insecure women to know that they’re not alone and for secure women to know that it’s okay to feel secure & okay to have moments of insecurity. It’s for all to know that they can make a difference, feel good about themselves, fight oppression, rise to challenges, speak out against things that bother them. They can define themselves in whatever way they choose. It’s about girl power, but it is NOT about girl power at the expense of a man. The show doesn’t bash men. Some of the subject matter may be uncomfortable for men to sit through, but it’s nothing scary at all. Men: no one’s going to lynch you for having a penis if you’re in or around the vicinity of a performance.
To say that The Vagina Monologues changed my life is cheesy. The Vagina Monologues hasn’t changed me in that life-altering, total wake-up call way. It’s changed my sense of awareness and made me want other chicks to be aware. Aware, not obnoxiously bold about being a woman, running around screaming “CUUUNT!” every chance they get. My mom was wrong to be so worried; I haven’t turned into a crazy liberal; I still have the same values she raised me with and many of the same views.
If my vagina could talk, what would it say? “Good luck to all my little Vag-es at Marist. Make me proud.” Purple feathers, twigs and shells forever. Happy V-day.