Photo by Chrissy FinleyConsider the vagina. And—Lord knows—who amongst us hasn't? Whatever you call it—pussy, snatch, twat, cunt, cooch, pinoche, poonanni, beaver, bunny hole, fur patch, the slobbery puppy, camel toe, spicy taco, sushi bar, baby's first water slide, the ooze palace, beef curtains, the bearded clam, the eye of God, bloody hatchet wound, Mommy, the source of and cure for all man's problems—the reality is that it's a pretty powerful piece of human anatomy.
And women got it. And men—at least the majority of men I know—want it. And they'll do anything and everything to get it. They'll wine and dine, beg and plead, mope and promise, cry, lie and even buy it, snort coke and watch pornos, buy an engagement ring, and compromise their every term for passage into its mysterious depths. Hell, some of the really disturbed ones even write poems professing their undying love.
But no matter how decent, strong, tender, depraved or in love the man, the truth is it's all about the vagina. And, unfortunately, more than a few men execute the vilest acts in order to gain entry into the creamy marsh of love—and we ain't just talking flowers. They hurt, they violate, they abuse, they rape, they objectify women, and they make the rest of the world suffer dearly because of their own shortcomings as men.
The abuse that women have endured—and continue to endure—because they have a vagina and men don't is partly why Eve Ensler began writing and performing The Vagina Monologues. Such abuse may also explain why the piece has, in three years, turned into the most frequently produced piece of theater in the world. This month, The Vagina Monologueswill be performed at more than 800 venues across the world as part of V-Day, a worldwide movement to stop violence against women.
As Ensler writes in her introduction to the published version of The Vagina Monologues, after performing the piece in its earliest days, "it slowly dawned on me that nothing was more important than stopping violence toward women—that the desecration of women indicated the failure of human beings to honor and protect this world. When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet. You force what is meant to be open, trusting, nurturing, creative and alive to be bent, infertile and broken."
I'll tell you one thing: I sure as hell won't be in the audience at either Cal State Fullerton or Cal State Long Beach when The Vagina Monologuesis performed as part of their V-Day College Campaign 2002 programs. It's bad enough dealing with the soul-wrenching guilt that comes from being straight and white.
What's that? The Vagina Monologuesreally isn't a man-bashing, angry, screechy ripping apart of the threads that hold the fabric of this oppressive patriarchal society in place? It's funny? And poignant, provocative, lusty, erotic, moving? And a great place to take a date? Or maybe even get one? Oh, rrrrreally?
Please go on:
"From our experience, men enjoy the play as much as women," says Joey Erwin, production manager for Cal State Fullerton's production."They'll come after the show and thank us and say either that they never truly realized what feminism was or that they were surprised, shocked and really enjoyed it. We've found it can really open up a dialogue between men and women and—if nothing else—improve the sex lives of couples around the world."
This is the first year Cal State Fullerton has taken part in V-Day; it's the third year for the loud*R*mouth Theatre Co., which will perform The Vagina Monologuesat Cal State Long Beach. Part of that campus' V-Day celebration is a V-Day Festival, which will be held before and after a matinee show on Valentine's Day (Thursday, Feb. 14).
The Vagina Monologuesis composed of 32 monologues written by Ensler, derived from conversations she had with hundreds of women. Those monologues range from meditations on "If Your Vagina Could Talk, What Would It Say?" (my favorite: "feed me") and "If Your Vagina Got Dressed, What Would It Wear?" (purple velvet pajamas, high heels, lace andcombat boots) to horrifying descriptions of genital mutilations and "The Flood," a deeply moving account of a 72-year-old woman who had never seen her vagina or experienced an orgasm due to feelings of intense shame and guilt.
To date, V-Day has raised more than $4 million for a variety of women's causes. This year, Cal State Fullerton's program will benefit CSP (one of the few rape hot lines in Orange County), a shelter for battered women, and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA). Cal State Long Beach's program hopes to raise $6,000 for a variety of women's programs in Long Beach as well as RAWA.
"V-Day has come to mean a lot of different things," says Karen Obel, director of the V-Day College Campaign. Some alternative meanings would include Vagina Day, (End) Violence Day and even Victory Day. But the irony of having V-Day around Valentine's Day each year is no accident.
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"Valentine's Day is an occasion that people use to celebrate love and romance and all the wonderful aspects of relationships," Obel says. "And yet with so many women and girls surviving violence, it's hard to imagine that Valentine's Day would be a day of celebration for them. So in a sense, V-Day is about making Valentine's Day—and every day—a day when women can celebrate their sexuality, their safety and their strength."
"It's just reality, and it celebrates femininity, as well as educating people about the violence that women go through every day," Cal State Fullerton's Erwin said. "I've heard some men are scared by the title alone. They think it's going to be male-bashing right off the bat. But it's the exact opposite. It's a celebration as well as an educational tool that these things happen every day to the women you love."
And then Erwin offers what may be the most quotable quote of this still New Year: "Even if you don't have a vagina, I'm sure you love someone who does."
V-Day College Campaign 2002 presents The Vagina Monologues at Cal State Fullerton Titan Student Union, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (949) 574-1440. Fri.-Sun., 7 p.m. $14 in advance; $20 at the door; and at Cal State Long Beach University Theatre, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 972-3593; www.loudrmouth.com. Thurs., Feb. 14, 1 p.m.; Feb. 15-16, 8 p.m. $15 suggested donation at the door.