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Well it’s 2017, 19 years after it’s inception, and I have FINALLY read “The Vagina Monologues” by Eve Ensler. Gasp! Blame it on my ultra conservative upbringing, but I was the girl this book was made for. I struggled with guilt and shame about my body and my sexuality, no matter how minor. Even just saying the words “sex” or “vagina” made me feel embarrassed and dirty.
Now at 32, I pride myself at being a heck of a lot more free and open, but I still catch myself using word substitutions at times. Partly, I suspect, from my still lingering religious guilt and fear. Growing up with a formerly Catholic mother and Jewish father, who converted to “Born Again” Christianity during the return of the fundamentalist conservative Christian phase of the late 80’s/early 90’s will do that to you I guess.
But that’s what makes this book of performed monologues so fascinating. It’s proof I’m not the only one who struggled with these insecurity, fear, shame, and embarrassment issues when it comes to my body, sexuality, and even twisted gender perception (more on that in a later post). No, I realized I was normal. Scratch that…I AM normal.
Ok maybe “normal” isn’t the appropriate word. Let’s say I was typical. Typical for a female in my generation and the ones before it, apparently. It’s eye opening really, and a confirmation of exactly what I’m trying to do with my life- to encourage and empower women and teen girls through the arts and media. It took a long time to become this women I am- that I have finally learned to like- and I’m still a work in progress But I’ve come a long way from the girl who would cry every time she looked at herself naked in the mirror, or would make “clicking” sounds with her tongue cuz she was too embarrassed to say the clinical terms of penis or vagina, and would spend hours (if not days) begging God incessantly to forgive her for having sexual thoughts let along partake in any sexual acts.
I admit reluctantly, it led to me being in a couple abusive relationships over the years- which now looking back I can see I fell victim to because of my lingering and deep rooted issues with myself and my past. These issues caused me to believe lies that led me to these unhealthy relationships, or at least accepting them far longer than any emotionally whole person should. Going around in these unhealthy cycles, until I finally woke up and put my foot down to stop it. Which honestly, I could only do with the help of some supportive friends, empowering messages, massive amounts of honest (sometimes painful) introspection and a lot of prayer.
That’s another reason I am so excited about the Vagina Monologues and what Eve Ensler was doing and is continuing to do today. She’s using theater and the written word as a way to facilitate a healthy conversation and expression of women’s body and sexuality shaming issues as a pathway to healing and ultimately fight abuse against women in all forms.
I’m a little embarrassed that it’s taken me this long to finally have experienced this work that made such a huge splash when it came out in 1998. But maybe this is just proof it’s time to bring The Vagina Monologues back around for a new generation of women and teen girls still struggling with body image issues, sex shaming and abuse? And it’s never too late for that.
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