Column2

I was worried.

While shelving books at my job a few months ago, a copy of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues fell squarely on my head from the top shelf. Then I began spotting it in random places-stuffed in with cookbooks, lying on top of romance novels. I took it as a sign; some sort of Divine Vagina Intervention.

I read it and wept. And laughed. And got angry. But I was no longer worried. I didn’t know vaginas could be so powerful.

But I should have known, considering the force of the words contained in those razor sharp pages. I was so alive with “girl power” afterwards that I needed a cigarette.

Since 1999, a long list of colleges and universities have hosted the

Vagina Monologues in celebration of V-Day, a foundation established by Ensler and others with the mission to end violence against women. This year, FAU was added to that list. For three nights, students, mothers, sisters, fathers, grandparents and brothers came to hear about vaginas.

The night I went, the theater was nearly full. I was surprised at the number of senior citizens in the audience. I hoped they didn’t expect Jackie

Mason. And there were men! The majority were boyfriend types or uncomfortable dates. A man sitting to my left browsed the complementary handbill, his hands shaking slightly. He tried to look calm, but the level of estrogen in the room was probably cutting off the circulation to his brain. Most of these guys were about to learn more about vaginas than they had ever hoped for.

The monologues are a collection of stories based on hundreds of interviews with women of all ages, races and ethnicities. They explore menstruation, aging, rape, sexual abuse, lesbianism, and birth. The tale of a lawyer turned dominatrix, lauding the joys of moaning are juxtaposed against the horror of mass rape at a Bosnian refugee camp.

Interspersed throughout the monologues are vagina “fun facts”. Ahem, “the clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure. The clitoris is simply a bundle of nerves: 8,000 nerve fibers to be precise. That’s a higher concentration of nerve fibers than is found anywhere else in the body. And it is twice…twice…TWICE the number in the penis.” Isn’t that delightful?

There was also a rapid-fire vagina “nickname” session. Lingo from different parts of the country I had never heard. “Coochie snorcher” was the obvious audience favorite. Then, of course, there was the angry vagina monologue, listing all the reasons vaginas had to be pissed. If a vagina could talk, would it tell you it doesn’t want to smell like berry scented douche? Probably.

The night was a combination of laughter, pain and tears. But I would hope a bit of enlightenment was thrown in there too.

The vagina has long been a source of shame and embarrassment for women.

So much shame and embarrassment that over 150 slang terms have been developed for it. Vaginas are important, but unfortunately they have become important to the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Instead of the fount of beauty, power and genius, it has been co-opted to convey a negative meaning.

I posit that women are free to seize a word that was kidnapped in a distant past, since we have already paid the ransom. The Vagina Monologues is a step in the right direction to reclaiming a word that is rightfully ours.

Tickets have been selling out all over the country for Ensler’s breakthrough play. And when’s the last time you saw a book with the word “vagina” in the title on the New York Times bestseller list? Many women would say not in their lifetime. Not until now.

Vagina: There, I said it. Can you?