It is an anatomical body part. Not an expletive. Not a crude term. Not a derogatory misnomer. It is just another body part. I reiterate this probably more for my benefit than yours, because for years—practically my whole life—the vagina has been a term to avoid at all costs, a concept to shirk at all times, a place to evade as much as possible.
Granted, the word does not encourage repetition; the phonetic sound alone comes across as slightly unpleasant and the actual visual does not do much to help the cause. However, this body part’s controversy transcends linguistic lines or cultural walls, demonstrating that the vagina’s taboo status does not exist based on the word alone but on something more fundamental, more universal, more about women in general.
That is why the Vagina Monologues, a series of monologues written for dramatic performance be Eve Ensler, as a concept, has the power to create such stir and make people feel so unbearably uncomfortable. The performances literally force you to sit and endure that which no man, or even a woman such as myself, wants to think about. The Vagina and the audience come face to face in an epic power struggle. Who will win? Will people submit to the vagina and begin to redefine its position in society or will you lash out in belligerent defiance as some critiques have. They chide or vilify the intentions of the monologues; they call it overbearing, overwhelming, or just over the top because it emphasizes a word that makes people squirm and addresses situations that people rather leave for their silent nightmares.
Either way, whether you follow it or fight it, like all controversy executed well, the Vagina Monologues provokes dialogue.
Here at Georgetown, we presented our own performance of the Vagina Monologues last weekend (February 6-9), and though I only recently learned about the Vagina Monologues a few months ago, I like the dialogue that it has inspired here on campus.
The Wednesday before the first showing of the Vagina Monologues last week, the United Feminists held a talk discussing the Vagina Monologues, its history, its implications, and thoughts on what vaginas mean to us. Though the content of the conversation enlightened me, I found the demographic make-up of the meeting to be the most interesting and heartening.
Going around the circle, I saw Asian, African, Hispanic, and mixed faces. There were girls and guys. There was tall and short, skinny and curvy. The straight-laced, the sassy, the eclectic, and the eccentric.
I understand that it may seem like an exaggeration of a small issue, and you may have noticed how my diction slowly devolved into a borderline Dr. Seuss line towards the end, but this one simple occurrence lends toward a much more poignant theme. We should proudly point it out. On a campus where it is so easy to feel different and even ostracized, it is refreshing to find a cause that brings people out and together. Better yet, it is refreshing to find people that revitalize the notion of individuality while still confirming that the human experience is universal.
I had not even made it to the show yet, and I felt empowered it. Hence, when I heard critiques of the performance’s cast and the lack of diversity, all my optimistic vibes were suddenly disrupted.
So, I went to the show, slightly jaded and disappointed, yet knowing nothing of what was actually going to happen. Georgetown’s cast put on a great performance, but what I found most striking was not the performance, but the cast performing it.
The critique I had previously heard brought up another important issue, with the simple comment “The cast lacks diversity. . .”
If you think diversity strictly means the ratio of white to black in any given setting, then yes, the comment accurately described the situation. However, the insidiously engrained notion that the insertion of a black person is the only way to diversifies—or that that it actually diversifies—a group is not correct. In fact, not only does it incorrectly define “diversity,” but it also exacerbates the wound we are trying to heal by perpetuating delineations between cultures and races and focusing solely on one obvious feature of a whole person.
Yet that is still the common perception of diversity, and lately, I think that such thinking focuses too closely on one piece of a much larger puzzle. Diversity to me is so much more than colors now. Diversity is about shape, size, accents, delivery, hair type, orientation, strengths, weaknesses, disposition, and color.
There may have been only one member of the cast that could be easily identified as Black or African American. But there were so many more unique forms represented—forms that did not ascribe to any particular category. Somehow, this was more empowering because we, as women, as people, have never fit into perfect categories. Finally, the time has come where we are aware and accepting of the facts.
And here are the facts, plain and simple:
Our vaginas are more than a bad sounding word.
We are more than a check-marked box.
-Jada Bullen, Slant Writer