It amazes me that in the laundry list of women’s issues that Nathan Carleton approved in his Feb. 17 column as “fine” to work on (eating disorders, mutilation and sexual assault. That’s it?) what The Vagina Monologues represents just wasn’t one of them. Celebrating our bodies and making people aware of how women learn about their sexuality (sometimes through violence and sometimes through tenderness) were apparently detrimental to our “goal.” What’s worse, I find it ironic that all of the proceeds collected from this “overpriced” play, as he complained, go towards rape victims in Iraq. Could there be a better cause for women’s rights than this one?
Social conservatives such as Carleton, who immediately become uncomfortable by any mention of topics that branch out of their monotonous idea of how each human being should live, make the heinous and offensive mistake of blaming women for their own avails in society. If we aren’t as academically high achieving, it’s because we’re too busy painting our nails and not trying hard enough. If we aren’t getting the best jobs, it’s because we came to a university not to learn but simply to become a “Mrs.” If we are assertive, we are bitchy; if quiet, we are dumb. If we wear short skirts we are trying to provoke male attention, regardless of what our true intentions are. And apparently, by putting on a play about a female body part that has not been understood by men and women alike, which has been mutilated in African tribal rituals for decades, locked up with chastity belts, and still not even been looked at by most of its owners, we are “identifying womanhood by a sexual organ... objectify(ing) females and their bodies worse than anyone.”
What is so offensive about the vagina? We’ve all played the “penis” game in our mature and immature days. Somehow we think that’s funny, but standing up and yelling “cunt” in a crowded theater that is putting on a play is not? I’d argue that that’s a better place to do it. Not an airport, not a restaurant. That is, if offending other people is your problem.
The Vagina Monologues is not a play about hating men. Nor is it a play about angry females trying to make you feel bad about not having a cunt. It’s about empowering women through the celebration of something they have long neglected. It’s about needing to understand one’s body to take care of oneself. It’s about deciding not to be ashamed of it or blame it because it may trigger sexual thoughts in men. It’s about our body’s right to exist, right to respectful treatment and to be free from harm. It’s about women discovering their sexuality, both in beautiful and ugly ways.
The stories in the play were not interpretations of events that took place between people. They are first-hand stories from women about their own discovery of their sexuality and the implications of that discovery for their lives. So whether the monologue was about a rape, a molestation, a first orgasm or something in between (the young lesbian discovering sex with an older woman), Carleton’s approval doesn’t matter. The point is that in every story such as this one, there is reality, there is beauty and there is pain. It is up to the audience to decide with which of those things it identifies.
Feminism is not about separate movements that deliver immediate tangible benefits like equal pay for women—its about uprooting our society and making people think about gender roles in a different way. Everything that is specifically harmful to women in society is as a result of not having done this. And The Vagina Monologues is simply one step.
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