For the past couple of months, my life has been consumed by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues. I was the stage manager for the University of Arizona’s production of the show this year, and much of my spare time has been devoted to seeing it succeed. I’ve been screaming at passerby on the UA Mall, “chocolate vaginas! Get your chocolate vaginas here!” I’ve been dancing in our director’s living room singing, “and we love vaginas, love, love vaginas!” And I’ve been running up stairs, sending out emails and posting up flyers. For the past two months I have been waging war against violence towards women and girls.
Back track for a moment– before I continue, let it be known that I have some serious issues with Ensler’s work, and now that the show is over I plan to disengage from the entire campaign. However, that is an entirely different conversation and an entirely different blog post. For now, I’d like to focus on what I love about the Vagina Monologues and what they bring to feminism.
I was 15 years old when I first saw the monologues. I remember laughing the entire time; if there was ever anything awkward about the show, I forgot about it quickly. The woman who performed “Hair,” a monologue about a woman whose husband wanted her to shave her vagina, was tall and pale and her white-blonde hair hung all the way down to her thighs. The angry vagina was a badass- pink mo-hawk, black eyes, tattoos. And “The Woman who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” was a lesbian who, to this day, turns me on. Each monologue spoke to me in someway, and one truly changed me: “My Vagina was My Village.”
This monologue is based on the story of a Bosnian woman who was gang raped during the war in Yugoslavia. It is split into two voices. One is the voice of the woman as she was– youthful, innocent, free– before she was raped. The other is the voice of the woman as she is now– angry, broken, lost. As I watched this piece, tears rushed to my eyes and shock twisted my core. I felt violated, outraged, and determined to do something, anything to stop this violence, this massacre of my sex.
In this moment, I became a feminist.
Three years later, I performed that very monologue on a stage at the University of Arizona. It was fate, I felt, that I had been chosen to play that role. As an actress, I was committed to my character and her story. As an activist, I was determined to make the audience understand what atrocities have been inflicted upon woman. I wanted them to cry as I had, to cringe, to shudder. Performing this monologue gave me the opportunity to change things, to grab people by the shoulders and make them face what the world had so masterfully covered up. And I’d like to think they saw as I did.
In the past few months, I’ve seen our cast of women take their own monologues and bring change to our community. I’ve watched them find empowerment, and I’ve smiled as they have empowered one another. It’s remarkable to see strangers turn into sisters as these women have.
Our beautiful cast!
That is what pieces like the Vagina Monologues have the potential to do. They unite people in laughter, tears, anger and joy. They force people to shed their differences and experience the world as one community.
Too often we forget that people are more alike than they are different. We have more to give each other than we have to take away. It is our ability to forget our humanity that drives violence, rape and war; and it is our inability to remember we are all one race that fuels the hatred and injustice that consumes this earth.
Sometimes, I fear all the world is burning. But most of the time, I fear the world doesn’t bother to notice when those fires are put out. When communities fight back. When women overcome. When leaders defend their people. When a group of 200 strangers come together in an auditorium to laugh and learn, together.
Words, art, media, music, prose, poetry, theatre, all have the ability to change how people perceive the world, to raise awareness about injustice, and to unite people in the name of a common cause. This is what the Vagina Monologues has done for many worldwide, including myself.
Someday, I hope my work can do what Ensler’s work has done. Until then, I will do what I can to fight for equality. I will write, I will sing, I will scream at the top of my lungs for my sisters.
And I will not be silenced.