Friday, February 19, 2010

The Vagina Dialogues

Yesterday I attended my very first performance of The Vagina Monologues. I really enjoyed it. And I found myself thinking a lot about my identity as a woman.

But what struck me the most were the reactions in the audience, and especially some men's reactions. First of all, I found it great that the play attract women AND men.
A boy sitting next to me was really uncomfortable at some points. He and his friend were very silent and said to each other: "this is weird..."

And at first, I was angry! I wanted to tell him "no, this is not weird, this is what being a woman mean. And you'd better learn, if you want to be a decent man!"

I thought he was uptight. But then again, it hit me: he was scared. Scared of women's sexuality being out in the open. I mean, sexuality is scary. It is scary for all of us, otherwise, we wouldn't have to laugh about it to make it lighter, we wouldn't have so many studies to know more about it.

But then, I noticed other men. Older men. Those men were laughing, they were moved, most of them had a woman sitting next to them they seemed close to. These men were confident. They know that strong women do not emasculate men (as it was implied in the Dodge commercial). They simply want respect.

In a world where some of us are trying to change the rules of the game, I think we, women, need men like this. We need men who can not only accept but love strong women.
We need men who love femininity. Those men are essential. Because feminism is not about women going to war against men. It is about helping each other, understanding each other, and hopefully loving each other. Let's get to work.


  1. I think you are exactly right, Marjorie. Feminism has a bad reputation for being a club for 'she/woman man-haters'. As we know, this is far from the truth. I think that initially, feminists have to unite as women, but to always keep in mind the ultimate goal feminists seek: total equality (not collective dominance). Not equality that suggests men, women, intersexed, etc. are the same; because we aren't! But equality that is rooted in the acknowledgement and respect for our differences. We can all be different and not exist in a hierarchized sex/gender society. This is exactly why we do need supportive males. These individuals are the liaisons through which females should speak to chauvinistic males. Let's unite as humans fighting for equality among humanity, not men and women for or against other men and women. We can't deny that we are ultimately talking about lives...human beings.

  2. Majorie, I really liked how you were able to pick up on the reactions of the crowd. I do feel that women and men understand the vagina monologues different. I think you make a strong observation that men are frankly scared or weirded out by the outburst of strong women in todays society. They see that women are preforming just as well if not surpassing the men at top tier schools. Women are taking on leadership positions and overcoming the norms. Men don't know how to hande their new position, because not only are they now fighting against other men for positions they have a whole new range of competition that they don't even understand.

  3. Majorie, I would first like to say how much I always enjoy reading your posts. They are always very thoughtful. Regarding your post, being involved with the Vagina Monologues, it is always so difficult to market. Men always ask me, "Why do we need the Vagina Monologues?" I feel that many of them view it as something that is man-bashing and fail to realize and understand that the play reflects women's experiences with their bodies and their sexuality. Until we can talk about this in the open without any shame or dirty looks when we say the word vagina, it will still be necessary. I think also a lot of the discomfort that men and some women have with some of the pieces is that our society makes sexuality, particularly femaile sexuality to be something that we shouldn't talk about. It is really interesting to me to hear the way that men were reacting in the audience. On the one hand, they were brave enough to come and see a show about vaginas. On the other hand, what else to they expect to hear about at a show about vaginas?!

  4. Thank you for your kind and interesting comments.

    @L'étranger: we do need these amazing guys to help us make a change. And guess what? Supporting women is what makes a man. A strong and decent man. A masculine man is someone who can handle a strong woman, because he is confident enough.

    @C.Martin: I think you are right about men not knowing how to handle their new situation. I think, but I may be too optimistic here, that it is through dialogue, love and friendship that we can find a way to make it work better.

    @Ciara: thank you! That means a lot that you like my posts. I find it funny that men are scared to see a show about vaginas. It seems to me that seeing vaginas is acceptable as long as it's porn, therefore objectified for and by men, and in a private, shameful context. And that talking about vaginas or hearing about them is perceived as weird/shocking/scary. What the Monologues are really trying to do is reconnect the vaginas to the women. Most of them talked about theirs as if it wasn't part of them. But then they insisted: it is part of our identity. SO the whole point of the show is to celebrate feminity, to reconquer our vaginas as ours and not (only) as an object of male fantasy.
    Ok, I'll stop now because there's a lot more to be said. But thanks to you for reacting!

  5. Furthermore, it's not just the act of "talking about vaginas" that evokes a strange feeling, but more specifically, when females talk about vaginas. I think you're right, Marjorie, it seems to me that males think about vaginas as objects of their sexual pleasure, yet they also talk in detail about vaginas to their fellow males. It's when a female stands up and reclaims her cunt that men begin to get nervous about the subject of vaginas.

  6. I love this post! It is so interesting that you observed the reactions of the men in the audience. The two guys that I went with seemed to have different reactions to things that were said as well. One seemed unaffected and comfortable about what was said but the other showed discomfort or awkwardness to be there even though he ended up really liking the show. Even when I told my dad about what the Vagina Monologues were he was uncomforable to hear about the stories that were told. I think that my dad and my guy friend who was a bit awkward need to attend things such as the Vagina Monologues to learn more and become comfortable with the concept of female sexuality. Through agreeing with your last statement, I think that if more men, even if they are awkward, learn about female sexuality with as much as details as presented through the monolgues then we might be able to see feminism from a new angle- one that appreciates men and does not fight against them.

  7. I think it's more strange for me to be redescribed by women as being an agent of domination, hoping to violate women through penetration, than to hear women talking about vaginas in an open forum. While I recognize the need for a sort of reeducation of most males (constantly seeing and hearing frat guys, and knowing their awful, stereotypical views of women, is particularly horrible for me), I'm taken aback by specific modes of speech which are commonly utilized by males but sometimes employed by women, i.e. Molly's comment of a female reclaiming her "cunt." As men constantly joke about women's sexuality as a static and singular category, implicit recognition of their sexually dominating role, it is difficult for me to identify with many of the jokes I hear about vaginas; usually it is only the most ribald, comparable to the revulsion I experience while reading the numerous penis-oriented passages of "Naked Lunch" (Talk of "sputtering cocks," and the like). While this could be a simple rumination on the relationship of art, obscenity, and expression, I feel like the use of certain vocabulary carries many connotations I'd rather not embrace. However, it is interesting to see the inconsistency of many males in their comfort with pornography and joking about female sexuality with males but not with females, as if "guy talk" and "girl talk" should necessarily alienate the opposite sex, if someone was only around to hear it.


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