The V Day Campaign, the season in which The Vagina Monologues performs, is upon us again. Formed 14 years ago and still going strong, The Vagina Monologues (the play, the book, the movement) balances validating activism, unity, good humor, and welcoming. Through story-telling, awareness is awakened: the personal is still political.
I first read The Vagina Monologues in spring '04, right around the time I graduated high school. Until reading it, I thought that I was malformed and diseased - too mortified and ashamed to talk to anyone about it. The controversy around The Vagina Monologues, years after it began, had sparked my interest in my budding feminism. Oddly enough, I was working as a receptionist in a Catholic parish office when I first read it! (I also read Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix at that job!) Before reading Eve Ensler's magnum opus (opa?), I was honestly not aware that anything between my knees and my neck existed. My physical self-awareness was sparked by The Vagina Monologues, and by no means am I alone in that.
From there came The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, CUNT by Inga Muscio, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, flannel menstrual pads, menstrual sponges, menstrual cups, vibrators, sex positivity, trans advocacy, and everything I have going on today.
Spring '09 was the first time I actually saw The Vagina Monologues play, which I co-assistant managed at my internship at The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center. My all-women college, Alverno, also hosted a student-run performance as well - it was ridiculously difficult to get a performance approved there!! You'd think that an all-women college would have been among the first places to advocate anything that supports women's awareness, but they were so afraid of being pegged as a "lesbian school".
Before seeing the play, The Vagina Monologues really felt like a private, personal, secret thing of my own. It was MY experience, shared with others who didn't seem real. Sitting in FOUR sold-out shows, though, opened up the doors to this community. Matrons, young girls, transwomen, lesbians, sex workers, rape survivors, virgins, allies - all these people seeking validation and finding community. It was a powerful thing, which made The Vagina Monologues more real as a social force powered by shared experience.