I have a vagina and this makes me proud. It seems foreign to me to utter these words yet I try to repeat them, or it (vagina), so that it stops feeling so strange to do so.
I began to realize my aversion to the word vagina in my search to find the book The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. For those of you who have not yet heard of this eye-opening look into the forbidden female zone, I guarantee your view of a woman’s body will change – mine certainly did.
The Vagina Monologues is an adaptation of Ensler’s award-winning one-woman show that has been performed around the world. It is a series of humorous and sometimes heart-wrenching stories of women of all ages and races talking about their vaginas.
Ensler sums up the book in her introductory chapter. “Here’s the place to release the myths, shame and fear. Here’s the place to practice saying the word, because as we know, the word is what propels us and sets us free. ‘VAGINA.'”
I had to practice saying the word ‘vagina’ a few times as I searched the bookstores for the little red book with the powerful title. I walked into Indigo Books and the Chapters on St. Catherine Street and immediately found myself seeking the assistance of a female employee for fear of asking a male employee and having one or both of us blush at the request. Both stores were sold out and I grumbled at the prospect of continuing my search and repeating the word ‘vagina.’
I pressed on but chose the telephone method to see test myself and see if this would make the process easier for me. It became easier with each phone call but I did notice that I was guarded each time I asked for the book. I felt myself overcompensating for my discomfort by repeating the title with either an authoritarian tone or a lighthearted whimsical tone as if to convince myself that I was liberated enough to use ‘vagina’ in my everyday language.
My true colors blinded me with their vibrancy when I went to pick up the copy on reserve for me at the Chapters in Pointe-Claire. It was closing time and a line-up up of 10-15 people waited behind me to purchase their politically correct cooking and child-rearing books while I approached the payment counter to ask for my reserved book.
The girl at the counter asked me my name and I fearlessly told her. She walked about 15 feet away to search for my book and then realized she needed the name of the book. As she asked me for the book name, my fearlessness quickly dissipated as I thought of the prospect of loudly calling out the title. I heard myself pause and then in a cracked and hushed tone I said, “the vagina monologues”.
I resisted the urge to turn around to witness the expression of the people behind me. Instead, I noted my discomfort, paid for my book and walked out of the store with my head held high determined to end the battle of embarrassment between me and my vagina.
My search for The Vagina Monologues was launched after I watched an episode of Oprah in which Ensler was a guest discussing the topic of female genital mutilation (FGM) otherwise known as circumcision of the clitoris.
According to Ensler, a young woman will have a knife, a razor or a glass shard cut their clitoris or remove it altogether and will have part or all of the labia sewn together with catgut or thorns. Short-term results include hemorrhages and cuts in the urethra, bladder, vaginal walls and anal sphincter among others. Long-term results include massive scars that can hinder walking for life, chronic uterine infection, immensely increased agony and risks during childbirth and early deaths. This procedure has been inflicted on 80 to 100 million girls and young women in South America, Africa, Western Asia, India and the Middle East.
This information ripped through my emotional threshold and I cried. I cried for every woman who has died from this inhumane act. I cried for each woman who survived but has had to live with the physical and emotional wounds of this brutal mangling of her most intimate body part. I cried for each woman who has lived with the fear that she would be the next victim. I cried for the mothers who desperately sought to save their daughters from this horrific fate. I cried for all woman, including myself, who have not realized the sacredness, the beauty, the love and the life force we all embody.
The Vagina Monologues seeks to help women acknowledge that their vaginas are indeed beautiful and are a vital force of energy and creativity.
Ensler takes the shame out of the vagina through anecdotes and real life experiences to expose it in its rawest and purest form. Her writing is poetic, her views are revolutionary and her compassion towards women is admirable.
As for me, I have apologized to my vagina for my lack of compassion and my ignorance for thinking of it in a way other than with reverence and respect.