It sounds like a medical instrument. “Nurse, hurry! Bring me the vagina!” Vagina. Vagina. VAGINA. – The Vagina Monologues
Why does a word that is used to label the female sex part sound so abhorrently gross to the females it belongs to? Shouldn’t that word be spoken with pride, not disgust?
I was recently cast in my university’s production of The Vagina Monologues, and it was definitely an eye opening experience. It was eye opening in two ways: one way makes me feel liberated and unashamed of something that is a part of me, that belongs to be, that symbolizes everything I am. The other way makes me feel defensive and shameful. Two very contrasting feelings, I know. It is confusing for me too.
The Vagina Monologues gave me the opportunity to sit in a room with a bunch of women who weren’t afraid to talk about everything that encompasses our vaginas. We openly talked about sex, lady doctor visits, tampons, underwear, misogyny… anything we wanted to talk about, we talked about. If someone had sex recently, they would tell us and we would all applaud. If someone was on a dry spell, we would mourn with them. If someone was on their period, we would all sympathize. If someone had finished their period, we would do a dance for them. It was a room full of a group of people who truly understood each other. I honestly learned things about these girls that my best friend of three years and I haven’t learned about each other. And I had known these women for a few days.
A question that our director would ask us every time we met for rehearsal was, “If your vagina could talk, what would it say?” or “How is your vagina feeling today?” The girls in the room would answer things like:
“My vagina would say that I need to go to sleep.”
“My vagina is saying good job for getting through last week!”
“My vagina is feeling ready for some loving’.”
“My vagina is tell me to push through and keep going.”
You see, what is so remarkable about those answers is that the women were responding with things they were feeling, but they included their vagina in the feeling, too. Their vagina and themselves were one — they were not separate entities. It made me remember that I have a vagina and whatever I’m feeling, my whole body is feeling. Including my vagina.
That was the liberated and unashamed feeling. It didn’t last very long. When it came time to advertise for The Vagina Monologues, we witnessed confusion and shyness and discomfort from both sexes. We would meet for rehearsal with stories of telling friends or family members about the show, only to be met with:
“Oh, I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. I thought you said vagina?”
Yes, yes I did.
“…Why would you say that?” “Why would you be in something that has that word?”
“Is it really about vaginas?”
“Is it just a bunch of women bitching about men?”
“Do you actually say the word vagina?”
“Why isn’t there a Penis Monologues?” Because a guy hasn’t taken the initiative to write a Penis Monologues. “I bet every woman would be totally against a Penis Monologues.” No?
When it came time for the show, the audience was about what you would expect on a 20,000 student university campus. There were about 20-30 audience members each night. Most were family members or friends of the cast. After the show, comments from the audience were generally the same:
“Wow, it really wasn’t bad at all!”
“Hey, it was actually pretty funny!”
“There was, like, hardly any man-hating.”
“I expected it to be a lot worse than it actually was. And it wasn’t even bad.”
Here is how the ensuing conversation with the audience critic would go:
“Why did you think it was going to be like that?”
Their faces would get a little twisted, and all they could sputter out was, “Well, because it was about vaginas.”
“If there was a show called the Penis Monologues, would you go? And why?”
“Yeah I would go, because guys are funny and not as serious about their man parts.”
“So having a vagina means I’m not funny and that I can’t be humorous about my lady parts?”
“Well, it’s different.”
“Did you feel uncomfortable at our show?”
“Of course I did.”
“Do you think you would feel uncomfortable at The Penis Monologues?”
The double standard I was hearing made me think that I should be ashamed of having a vagina. That it is something serious and not playful, something uncomfortable to talk about and acknowledge its existence. I even have friends who refuse to say the word “vagina” and who refuse to talk about the fact that they have one. Now why would a woman be ashamed of something that is a part of her? If you are religious, why would a woman be ashamed of having something God gave her?
These questions still plague my mind, and they most likely will for weeks to come. I think this is the kind of conversation that needs to be happening between females and between the sexes. If women ever hope to be and feel on an equal playing field with their male counterparts, we need to first start acknowledging what is fundamentally different from them: we have a vagina. They do not. And vaginas are nothing to be ashamed of. They are to be embraced and loved, both inside and outside the bedroom.