Saying “Vagina”

This is my last post for my class Sociology of Gender, but be warned, I will probably continue to write about gender issues, just with less frequency. Entering the class I started out being a feminist. And I must say, I am still a feminist, but a much better educated one. I’ve always aspired to be different from other women, but now I realize that I shouldn’t be trying to outshine other women, I should be supportive of them, and try to make a difference in the gendered way people socialize by just speaking up (politely, of course.) Women who do not come from the same background as me, women who have been taught that they are inferior, and women who feel they need to dumb themselves down to be attractive are not my enemy, the societal rules that told them to be that way are.

Throughout the course, I’ve come to see feminism as more of a collective than individual effort. Sure, each individual has the power to determine how they approach things. I certainly view TV and movies with a different eye, I hear what a lot of guys my age say differently, but I’m not the only one who has to be exposed to gender inequalities, it’s everyone, men too. With this mindset, I have decided to partake in the  Mizzou production of The Vagina Monologues. Yes, that ever restricted word VAGINA. I’m saying it, and I’ll probably be saying some variation of it multiple times on the stage at Jesse Hall in front of my peers and my parents. Yup, daddio will be in attendance. But the main purpose of the Vagina Monologues is to empower women, help raise awareness, and end violence against women. In our first rehearsal, Struby Struble (awesome name, right?) kept using the phrase “feminist collective” which simply meant we were all in it together, not just the women in the room or the women worldwide who participate in V-Day, the umbrella organization, but all women period. I would even venture to say that the feminist collective includes men who are feminists. It’s not about drawing a line in the sand, either around yourself or your gender. Anyone who wishes to end violence or the stigma surrounding female sexuality and abuse is a part of the effort.

If my super masculine father wants to see a show called “The Vagina Monologues” there must be hope for everyone. In the orientation video we watched during our first rehearsal, a police officer was interviewed about the play being put on in his community. He said that his job was about protecting the safety of people, so of course he was supportive of the V-Day movement. If everyone thought this way, there would be much less skepticism surrounding the idea of a feminist movement. It’s not about the fact that a bunch of women are screaming vagina at the top of their lungs, it’s that they’re free to talk about their struggles as women with fellow women and others who care and can help. The freedom of expression in the play is about ending the silence that many abused women endure. If there wasn’t such a stigma around rape, incest, or genitals, abused people all over the world would feel more comfortable talking about and reporting their attacks, which could help with finding a solution.

The words “vagina”, “cunt”, “pussy”, “clitoris”, and “twat” may be hard words for people to hear, but think about why they’re hard to hear. Words don’t become obscene overnight, people are told they’re offensive and shouldn’t be spoken. They shouldn’t be talked about or bad things will happen. When women learn that words for their genitals, their very womanhood, are offensive to the average listener, they tend to become ashamed and introverted on the subject, making it difficult to discuss sexual needs to partners, relationship abuse, rape, or incest. If women are taught it’s their fault, they’re going to start believing it.

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