A Special Issue on The Vagina Monologues

The OBS Express
A Newsletter of the Call Them Out Society, Ltd., Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA Volume 1, Number 7 April 24, 2010

A Review of The Vagina Monologues with Suggestions for Penis Monologues
By Jane Gilgun MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, USA. Women push back and tell their own stories in The Vagina Monologues, a play by Eve Ensler that a group of women activists put on last night on the campus of the University of Minnesota. Eve interviewed more than 200 women, young, middle-aged, and old, from many cultures and social classes. From these interviews, Eve created in women’s own words a celebration of women and a pushback against the degradation of women. The play has been translated into 45 languages and put on in 120 countries. Last night’s performance was a fundraiser for Women’s Advocates, the oldest women’s shelter in the nation and part of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. Women rejoiced in the beauty of their vaginas and transgressed myths and stereotypes. For the most part, the skits are funny and sad at the same time. The skit on hair, for example, celebrated pubic hair and also told a funny and poignant story of a woman whose husband insisted that she shave. The woman’s declaration of her worth—pubic hair and all—makes the skit a celebration. Happy Vaginas In “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could,” a woman tells of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child and how as an adult she became a fully sexual woman who delights in her sexuality. Once again a woman overcomes degradation and becomes her own proud self. “I Was There in the Room” celebrates vaginas in childbirth. How they stretch to accommodate babies and the miracles that vaginas make possible. This is as far away as possible from Freud’s male-centered image of vaginas as dark openings with shark’s teeth. “The Women Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy” is a terrifically humorous take on a woman whose life mission is to make other women’s vaginas—and the women themselves—happy. This is a complex skit whose teller is a former attorney who found her true calling in her late 30s and now delights in the moans that accompany different kinds of orgasms. This skit is a celebration women through and through, with lots of humor. Celebration of Vaginas as Liberation The play set me to wondering about two things. Am I my vagina? Is my vagina me? No, it is not, but it’s an intimate part of me and a part that needs celebration. Celebration of vaginas liberates me and other women from shame and secrecy about an important body part. I also wondered what would happen if someone interviewed 200 men about their penises. The two questions are related.

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The beginning of The Vagina Monologues helps to address both issues. Woman 1: I bet you’re worried. Woman 2: We were worried. Woman 3: We were worried about vaginas. Woman 1: We were worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we didn’t think about them. We were worried about our own vaginas. They needed a context of other vaginas—a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them—like the Bermuda Triangle. Nobody ever reports back from there. Woman 2: In the first place, it’s not so easy even to find your vagina. Women go for weeks, months, years, without even looking at it. A high-powered businesswoman was interviewed, and she said she was busy. She didn’t have the time. Looking at your vagina, she said, is a full day’s work. You have to get down there on your back in front of a mirror that’s standing on its own, full-length preferred. You’ve got to get in the perfect position, in the perfect light, which is somehow shadowed by the mirror and the angle you’re at. You get all twisted up. You’re arching your head up, killing your back. You’re exhausted by then. She said she didn’t have the time for that. She was busy. The Penis Monologues Imagine a play called The Penis Monologues. This is how it would begin. Man 1: I bet you’re worried. Man 2: We were worried. Man 3: We were worried about penises. Man 1: We were worried about what we think about penises, and even more worried that we think about them all the time. Other things must be important, but we don’t know what they are. We worry, Are they big enough? Bigger than other men’s? Does size matter? So much depends upon our penises. A real man has a big one. A real man uses it with force, brings women to ecstasy. Women want a penis. They envy ours. The penis is Times Square. Everyone is there. Everyone talks about penises. They see them everywhere. Skyscrapers are penises. Rockets are penises. Swords are penises. Guns are penises. Cars are penises. The Washington Monument is a penis. Everyone loves penises. Everything stands for a penis. We see them, think about them, and talk about them all the time. Penises are power. Penises are us. Man 2: In the first place, they are so easy even to find. Just look down. We touch them all the time. We have to, for obvious reasons and then for the pleasure, oh, the moaning, groaning pleasure of the penis at work and play. And they’re so active, up and down, up and down, all day long. It even went up the first time I held my newborn son in the hospital. Everyone laughed. It was wonderful. It’s a flag that waves in the wind, tells everyone what’s going on. I can’t imagine life without my penis. I’m never too busy for my penis. Men love their penises. That is obvious. Women feel shame about their vaginas, those deep, dark, and smelly secret places down there. It’s way past time that women tell their own stories. Writing a Woman’s Life Carolyn Heilbrun, author of Writing a Woman’s Life, said that women must write their own stories and not be bound by the stories that others tell about them. The Vagina Monologues is a series of stories that women tell about themselves, stories about our degradation as women and the celebration of the very body part that is most degraded. Rather than being ashamed of myths and stereotypes about vaginas, about women, and about
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women and girls who have been raped, we have to tell our stories. Myths and stereotypes silence us. We feel ashamed when others degrade us. We are afraid to talk and so we are silent. The Vagina Monologues shows what happens when women speak. The world changes. Women of the Democratic Republic of Congo The evening ended with a video on the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the DRC, rape is a weapon of terrorism and war. Rape is a systematic destruction of women and girls. In the video, the women and girls are speaking out and find that their stories mobilize support and turn public opinion and public policy against terroristic rape. Within The Vagina Monologues, the skit “A Teenage Girls’ Guide to Surviving Sexual Slavery” speaks to women who experience oppression. The skit ends with “No one can have what you do not give.” The teenage girl never gave in to the man who enslaved her for two years. The campaign for women in the DRC is called Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls of the Democratic Republic of Cong. For more information, visit www.vday.org/congo. About V-Day This production of The Vagina Monologues is part of V-Day. V-Day is a worldwide movement whose purpose is to end violence against women and girls. The movement raises money for women— center programs through productions like The Vagina Monologues. V-Day also seeks to raise awareness so as to bring about changes in policies and public opinion. Last year, 4000 V-Day events took place around the world. It is present in 130 counties in Europe, Asia, African, the Caribbean, and North American. See more about V-Day at http://www.vday.org. V stands for victory, valentine, and vagina. The Actors Twenty-two women put on The Vagina Monologues. They are Hanna Ennser-Kananen, Jenna Cushing-Leubner, Lanae Steen, Lauren Dickinson, Leah May, Kathrin Hahn, Judi Gronseth, Tanya Hagre, Sara Schroth, Anwulika Chikamadu Okafor, Jane Gilles, Christy Perfetti, Cassie Scharber, Kate Mejicano, Gina L. Curci, Liz Greene, Claire Stienecker, Martha Bigelow, Eliana Siverio Mora, Kathryn Engebretson, Andie, and Sophie Li. About OBS Express The OBS Express is a newsletter that appears occasionally to call out perpetrators of unkind deeds and cover-ups, to celebrate those who stand up to perpetrators, and to recognize perpetrators who change their ways. The editor is Jane Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, a professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. See Professor Gilgun’s book, Child Sexual Abuse: From Harsh Realities to Hope, which is available at on-line booksellers. Based on interviews with perpetrators and survivors of child sexual abuse, the book shows was child sexual abuse MEANS. What child sexual abuse means to survivors and perpetrators is largely absent from today’s discussions. She also writes other books, children’s stories, and articles that are available on Amazon Kindle, scribd.com, iBooks for iPad, and many other on-line booksellers.

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