I remember my first period. I was 11 years old. I was a figure skater at the time, and I was at the rink. It was after my lesson. I remember asking my mom for a quarter so I could get a pad. It wasn’t a big deal. I had sex ed. I knew it was coming. I thought it would be a big deal, but it wasn’t. Then, when I was 19, I read, “I Was 12. My Mother Slapped Me.” It was one of the earlier monologues from “The Vagina Monologues.” You don’t really see it in the annual V-Day movement anymore. But the message is still poignant and clear. We have all had different experiences with that “magical moment” that makes us a woman…some are positive, some not so much. If only we knew back then that it was only the beginning of experiencing “womanhood.” It’s no longer an easy issue to solve like getting a pad for a quarter.
Unfortunately, other experiences in my life would bridge that dialogue between myself and the Monologues and I found myself in the stories of these women that Eve Ensler interviewed.
As we are in the middle of celebrating the 20th anniversary of V-Day and “The Vagina Monologues,” I’m excited to be organizing V-Day Raleigh’s second year with an amazing group of women. The collaboration with Julya Mirro from ARClitE and seeing beautiful work from Eric McRay has been a very profound experience.
As I go about sharing this experience publicly, I’m met with two types of responses:
- Rock on!
- “Vagina Monologues?” That’s still happening?
Let me address the latter.
Yes, “The Vagina Monologues” are still happening. If anything, it’s louder than ever!
To me, as long as there are women still being born (and last I checked that was an affirmative yes), and women are still having experiences relating to their vagina…love it, hate it, want it, “The Vagina Monologues” will continue to stay relevant. There are so many reasons why, and I’ll simply be skimming the surface.
More importantly, as long as violent acts against women are still being committed, V-Day is VERY relevant. The tagline you’ll often see with V-Day is, “Until the violence stops…” Last I checked, the violence hasn’t stopped yet. Honestly? We can’t think of violence against women without thinking of racism, class wars, rape, injustice, etc.
On a more blunt note…we have SO many words for vagina, it’s like we’re all afraid of the word. The play opens with all of the nicknames for the vagina. Come to think of it, the word “pussy” is still being used as a word to describe someone that is weak. It’s amazing how many of us are still afraid of a word that should have been normalized decades ago.
The message of “The Vagina Monologues” is far from obsolete, even if it was published 20 years ago and these interviews took place 20+ years ago. Yes, Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women, and from those interviews came “The Vagina Monologues.” She discovered something incredible in all of these interviews. If you look at the play, there are words that connect the monologues together in this wonderful dreamcatcher-like metaphor. These monologues are the voices of women from all ages and backgrounds. They illustrate how women were treated throughout history and even in this present day. The monologues remain relevant.
Think about it. There are women who still feel confusion and pain when they think of their vagina. Women are still shamed if they don’t shave their bikini line. Many young women still don’t have awareness of their own body. We don’t talk about how the vagina changes during and after childbirth. Women are still being raped. Domestic violence still happens.
Furthermore, women are discouraged from exploring and embracing their sexuality. I saw a post on Facebook calling the clitoris the “Devil’s Doorbell.” The sad part is that I couldn’t tell if it was a joke because there are people who actually believe that. When we repress our sexuality, we are holding back on who we are. There shouldn’t be guilt and shame associated with our sexuality…that all stems from a more powerful group trying to control someone they see as “the other.” Women have been raised to feel ashamed of their body. If a girl wears leggings at school, she has to go home and change because SHE is the distraction. I guess it’s too much work to raise children to NOT view each other as sexual objects and…heaven forbid, practice self-control?
“One of the most radical things women can do is love their body.” – Eve Ensler
I’m proud to see that “The Vagina Monologues” continues to evolve and be more inclusive. It’s important to note that being inclusive doesn’t mean we are erasing ourselves out of the narrative and excluding who we are. We are a big tribe…there is always room for more.
It’s also important to note that the play addresses that not every woman has a vagina, and not every woman wants to be defined by their vagina. Eve Ensler has made that very clear. Just because the play is about what it means to have a vagina, it doesn’t mean that you have to have a vagina to be a woman. While “The Vagina Monologues” may not relate to every woman’s journey, it will still resonate with thousands, if not millions…and those are Eve Ensler’s words!
So, what do we do? We need to approach “The Vagina Monologues” not just from a theatre standpoint, but also from an activist’s perspective. We need to stop whispering our needs, but instead start shouting our demands if we want to see change. Between the Women’s March, the Women’s Rally on Raleigh, and more…voices are being heard. That is fantastic.
Plus, can we talk about the #MeToo movement? The brave people – famous, not famous, old, young, gay, straight, bi, trans, pan, fluid, etc. who continue to step forward, more specifically WOMEN…just shows how society hasn’t progressed or changed dramatically in the last 20 years. Have we made strides in the right direction? Of course. Is there still a lot of work to be done? Definitely.
“The Vagina Monologues” continue to start a dialogue with people. They get us talking to each other. They are reminding women and girls that they are not alone. One out of three women will be raped and/or beaten in their lifetime. When you do the math with a world population of 7.6 billion, that’s over 1 billion women. In case you haven’t caught on, that is where the “One Billion Rising” movement got its name. In short, vaginas haven’t found liberation yet. Just because you have found that freedom, it doesn’t mean others have. We’re not free until every vagina is free.