When I first heard about The Vagina Monologues, I skeptical. I had no idea what it would be about – man bashing, perhaps. A collective moan about our lowly status as women. Or worse, a collection of half-jokes, half-truths that would only serve to make women more uncomfortable about that space between their legs.
But I went anyway. Judge lest ye be judged.
What is The Vagina Monologues? Still tough to describe, even after I’ve seen it. It’s based on a book by Eve Ensler, and it’s a collection of stories and comments and facts from over 200 women interviewed. All encouraged to talk about their vaginas.
But it’s about more than that, too. It’s about self-image, the image our parents projected onto us, the way society deals with “that area down there”, rape, mutilation, birth, discovery, and self-love.
Let’s face it, women are in general not comfortable with their genitals. Even the most liberated, sexually adventurous and self-loving of us have issues from time to time. The first time I remember actually thinking about this was when I read Nancy Friday’s Woman on Top – which had to be a good nine or ten years ago now. She coined it the cloaca concept – the secret belief of every woman that her genitals are one big garbage dump – smelly, damp, dirty.
There’s an article on Libida that discusses this very thing.
How others perceive our genitals also has a lot to do with the eventual self-image we carry around. Find me one woman – one – who hasn’t heard fish jokes at some point in her life. There’s an entire industry that is devoted to shaving off, douching out, sanitizing, deodorizing, and otherwise “making more clean” that dirty, dirty area. Add your own experiences and examples here.
At any rate, on comes The Vagina Monologues. Three women, on stage for an hour and a half, reading and re-enacting stories and facts and comments from the women Ensler interviewed.
It’s hilarious. Moving. Touching. Discomforting. There were times I laughed so hard my sides hurt, and other times the stories moved me to tears. Some of the sad facts peppered throughout the monologues left the entire audience still, in silent acceptance that the world we live in is not always a sex-positive and friendly place to be.
I honestly believe if you have a vagina, you will enjoy this show. Now, that’s not to say that men wouldn’t find some radically funny things here, but some of these stories – this could just be my gender bias – just may not make much sense if you haven’t been born and raised in this culture with a pussy.
If you want to learn more (there’s a running show in New York City, but there are also tour dates in many North American cities) you can check out the web site. If you’re not in North America, or not near any of the tour cities, pick up the book (The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler). I plan to.