I recently read Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and I would recommend it to anyone interested in female liberation and, I suppose, anatomy. One of the most impressive features of the Vagina Monologues is its longevity. First performed in 1996, the Vagina Monologues has gone through many drafts and is still performed today. It has also spawned V-Day, a movement to raise awareness and fund organisations fighting to end violence against women.
There are definitely some problematic chapters in the play. “Good rape” story aside, The Vagina Monologues has been criticised for being a white feminist text and for its lesbian leanings. For me, it was very American. I started to imagine all Vaginas having “Valley Girl” accents. Still, I did feel that the overall message of the piece was that all vaginas are important, all vaginas deserve their day in the sun.
So, here are my responses to some of the questions and topics discussed in the text. These are not verbatim, just some of my thoughts while reading.
Favourite Word for Vagina
There is a long list of words for vagina in the opening pages, most of which I had never heard before as they are regional American terms that Ensler has collected from across her country. Fair enough, but I think she’s missing out by not taking her vagina across the pond. The UK and Ireland have some wonderful words for vagina – minge, clunge, fanny (in the US, that’s just your bum), muff, twat, gee, bush etc. I’m a fan of the word vagina itself, although my favourite term for the general area is probably Lady Garden, it’s prim yet fun, a line I like to walk vagina-wise. Like Caitlin Moran, I also love CUNT. It’s a powerful word for a powerful thing.
My least favourite term is definitely, definitely “beef curtains”. I don’t even like having it on this blog because I hate bringing it to anyone’s attention, but I guess this post is nothing if not honest.
I’m not sure where it started, but not long ago, many of my friends and I decided to name our genitals (either type) after the last film we saw. Luckily for me, I had just watched The Duchess. So, my vagina’s name is The Duchess. Prim yet fun, I think, though most films make excellent vagina names.
If your vagina could talk, what would it say?
“Thanks for your interest, nobody ever asks me!”
I asked several women this before I had actually read the play, as an interesting topic for discussion one night. Most answered quickly, but their vaginas seemed pretty shocked, most of them said something like “Whoa!” or “Oh my god!”. They are just not used to being consulted. Ensler says this is why the women she interviewed were so excited to talk about their vaginas, “because no-one’s ever asked them before.”
My First Period
I was in primary school, I think I was 11. I went to the bathroom and saw blood spots in my underwear.
“Oh right, I guess I’ve started my period.” I thought.
I had learned about MENSTRUATION in school and my mother had put panty liners and clean knickers in my washbag “just in case”. So, I stuck the pad in the pants and went about my day. When I got home, I got whispered congratulations from my female relatives and a box of chocolates. It’s definitely the most amount of praise for the least amount of work I’ve ever done.
Afterwards, reading Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret I thought Margaret and her friends were major saps for all the period drama they went through. I wish I was as chill now about anything as 11-year-old Caoimhe was about puberty.
It was only later, in my teenage years, that I was affected by cramps that would slay a troll, tampon terror and weepy mid-cycle moments. Periods are not as glamorous as they seem on tv, people.
While we’re on the subject, fun words for menstruation include Surfing the Crimson Wave (Clueless!), The Red Wedding, The Full Stop and my new favourite, MOON TIME!
This has been discussed at length by far sharper and more articulate feminists than me so all I’ll say is do what you want with your lady garden, my topiary is my own.
If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?
This question IS verbatim from the text. I think something stripey and these Dr Martens.
So, those are my reactions to The Vagina Monologues. I think the word “empowering” gets a lot of abuse from people trying to sell things to women, but I definitely found the text inspiring and I’m glad I had a response to it.
I hope you all enjoyed meeting The Duchess.