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Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is attempting to bring normalcy to conversations around female sexuality, and why it is a must watch for men and women alike.
It was a lazy Sunday morning, and I figured that I had practically nothing left to do for the day. So like any social media addict, I started skimming through the pages of Facebook. One particular post by Ms. Mahabanoo Kotwal, who I deeply revere, caught my attention.
The post talked about the staging of one of her critically acclaimed plays, The Vagina Monologues. I had heard a lot about it and just could not resist myself from attending this show, even if it meant traversing a mammoth distance of 86 km to and fro. I knew that the show would completely be worth it. Not wasting anytime further, I quickly booked my tickets and embarked on a 1.5 hours metro journey to discover what this show was all about.
As, I left home, I got an SMS from a friend who asked what I was up to? Nonchalantly, I remarked, I am going to watch The Vagina Monologues.
What? Haha! He exclaimed and giggled. Vagina? What sort of play is that? That is when I realized that I was speaking of a term prohibited in general communication.
The Vagina Monologues is helmed by Eve Ensler. It is a taboo breaking chronicle of interviews of hundreds of women of all ages across the globe about their vaginas — a topic most of us never talk about! It has become an acclaimed and important play worldwide and plays a key role in feminist movements, consistently raising awareness and money to end violence against women.
The stage was set, and 3 feisty ladies sashayed in – Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, Mona Ambegaonkar, and Swati Das. What followed was a 70 minute, high octane, formidable, and heart wrenching performance replete with generous doses of humour.
This space is fairly limited to share the entire plot, but I am sharing a few snippets and learnings which I found to be relevant in the fabric of the Indian Mindset.
Yes, speaking the word ‘Vagina’, especially loudly, is best avoided. You can only speak of this unabashedly, when confronted with a medical ailment in the gynaecology clinics behind closed doors and thick curtains. Yes, one cannot discuss the term vagina openly at a public place such as a restaurant or an office lunch room.
And why not? After all, a vagina is just like any other organ in our body, like the nose, ears, hands, and legs. So while we are all too comfortable in saying my legs are aching, we are uncomfortable saying that there is an irritation in our Vaginas.
Isn’t this a cue towards the discomfort we have stemmed since ages, in dealing with sexual matters? So if I have period cramps and a male boss, I prefer to remain at home by saying that I have a stomach ache rather than highlighting the real problem.
Sex remains an elusive subject in this country, a mystical and enigmatic phenomena. Subconsciously, we always had a perpetual hunger to tread on this uncharted territory. Premarital Sex? Oh, It is a stigma!
You cannot come out in the open about it unless you want to be projected as a lecherous, immodest, and promiscuous person, who is a threat to the staunchly protected and revered Indian value system where sex is permissible only after marriage. You almost become a SOCIAL TERRORIST if you dare to go ahead with it.
It is with this particular hunger that most marriages are solemnized, where marriage is still considered as a pass to free, unlimited, sacrosanct sex. Sooner or later, the fervour for sex subsides, and we are left lurking dealing with deep rooted issues of emotional incompatibility.
Result? A divorce or an extra marital affair, depending on the audacity and valour of the partners. The same ambivalence leads us to secretly watch porn to assuage our sexual libido, giving rise to a whole generation of sexual lunatics, rapists, molesters, pedophiles, and assaulters.
This is why plays like The Vagina Monologues are needed to break that mental block of treating sex as a hideous, behind the curtains issue. Quoting a few lines from this show to give you an insight into what I saw-
“I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas– a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them– like the Bermunda Triangle.”
“The heart is capable of sacrifice. So is the vagina. The heart is able to forgive and repair. It can change its shape to let us in. It can expand to let us out. So can the vagina. It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. So can the vagina.”
“If your vagina could speak, what would it say?”
In short, The Vagina Monologues is an ingenuous piece of work replete with humour, with the notion that men and women should start viewing the female body and genitals outside the purview of the bullshit male-centric, patriarchal perception. This will ultimately benefit both female and male watchers, by helping them move ahead of the narrow and shallow world views of gender identity and learning, to appreciate their ‘ownness’, which is independent of societal pressures.
For me, watching this show made me gain comfort in speaking, understanding, empathising, regaling in, and dealing with this particular part of my body which is as integral and is as important to my being as any other organ.
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Published here earlier.
Image Source: vimeo
Pallavi Barnwal is a proud single mother and a product of a small town upbringing
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