Vagina Monologues is a play about social issues and as the title suggests, the content can be more than a little shocking. The author allows the play to be shown worldwide without payment of royalties, as long as part of the proceeds for each presentation go to an organization or program identified as the beneficiary for the year. Since our NGO was one of the play's sponsors, when I gave the welcome remarks, taraaaa. In the audience were my mother, my unmarried aunt Ofelia, my daughters Sarah (24 1/2) and Josephine (21), and Sarah's boyfriend Jake. Eva (almost 26) and Michelle (16) refused to watch because "vagina" is a dirty word. My 2 sons in their late teens didn't watch for similar reasons. There were at least 15 others who were present at my invitation, among them a priest in his early thirties, one of my teachers in the John Paul II institute. I'd left him 5 tickets and I think he used three although I did not recognize other priests among his companions. This was the third or fourth year we'd brought the play to our city as part of our advocacy against gender violence.
Calling the vagina by name
The evening began. On stage - women of varying ages and sizes lounging casually about in black clothes with pink scarves, shawls, drapes, etc. No one in skimpy clothes, absolutely nothing X rated about the scene. The introduction was easy enough. Three women talking about vaginas. One said the word sounds cold, like a surgical instrument, "Nurse, bring me the vagina." Another said she knew her vagina was there but it was like the cellar, something that you don't think about or visit. Part of this first scene is naming the vagina as it is called in different places in the US. Most of the euphemisms were completely unfamiliar therefore had very little impact.. I was afraid my audience was going to get bored if this was how the play was going to continue. Local terms and euphemisms would have sounded a thousand times more terrible but the point of the whole play was to be able to speak the unspeakable without being ashamed. The first quite shocking monologue was that which was written to represent a woman whose husband required her to shave her pubic hair. Next was the monologue about a woman who flooded from down there, every time she found herself aroused. By then, I was beginning to wonder what my virginal daughters were thinking and if my mother was thinking that I was polluting their innocent minds. My greatest worry, however, was the priest, my instructor. It was time for me to thank God that the Bishop wasn't in the audience although I actually tried to invite him the day before.
The funny and sad stories that vaginas tell
The scenes followed one after the other, women talking about their experiences in a vagina workshop, a monologue of a woman with a happy vagina, another monologue, this time by a woman about a man who liked looking at vaginas and made her feel beautiful because her vagina was beautiful. When, oh when would the talk about violence begin, I thought? It was a relief when the topic shifted to women's recollections of their first menstrual period. This at least was informative, educational, not at all dirty or shocking by any definition. Gave me a chance to relax. I relaxed even more when the monologues were about not so happy sexual experiences, objects being inserted up vaginas, an unfaithful husband, an angry vagina, rape in Kosovo. This was what I was waiting for. Unfortunately, this part of the play didn't last for too long. I wondered what my guests thought about the conversations on how women perceive their vaginas to smell. A woman who talked about why she uses a short skirt and that the short skirt does not mean she is inviting rape, should have been all right with a better actress, not this one. The next woman spoke about reclaiming Cunt, a word that doesn't really scandalize here because somehow, for us in the Philippines, the "bad" words are not in English but in our local languages. The woman playing the part was a good actress so she got an applause but there were several who were greeted by silence when their messages fell flat. Of course there were times when the message was so painful that stunned and compassionate silence was the only appropriate response.
Lesbian Talk and Moaning
Anyway, I was beginning to feel that the play was bearable, even with at least one priest in the audience. Then the lesbian talk began. First, it was about a 16 year old being seduced by a beautiful and sophisticated 24 year old butch. Then it was about a woman lawyer who discovered that more than men and law, she enjoyed using props to make women moan. She went on and on about this moaning and how she loved causing it and listening to it. This was time for feeling the water get hotter and hotter around me. When the demonstration of various moans began, I thought I'd had it. What redeemed this next to last part was that after many many samples, the moans became hilarious. For instance, my friend Celia (a city councilor for 9 years) demonstrated the Diva moan. By then, we were all laughing and had forgotten that these crazy moans were part of a lesbian's story.
After the play, I was relieved when several friends congratulated me and thanked me for inviting them to come. Although my mother did not show the same enthusiasm, it was enough that I didn't hear any complaints from her or from my girls, who, despite movies and unrestricted television, still think that a woman who is not married should definitely refrain from sex. As for my aunt, I could sense that her virginal ears had been scandalized but I guess I thought she needed to be shocked a little. It was my priest guest I was worried about. I was sure that he'd finished the play, which by itself should have been a good sign. On the other hand, I could not imagine what he thought of the play or of me for inviting him, other priests, and even the bishop.
When Celia (the Diva moaner) and I talked later that evening, I told her about my apprehensions, including the fact that I had more priests, including the Rector of the Seminary and the Academic dean of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, invited for the next day's performance. "You invited them?" Celia said, laughing. "While the play was going on, the cast and production crew wondered if the diocese sent the priests to spy on our infernal feminist activities."
I had to know, what they thought of the play so at 8:40 a.m.the next day, I sent the priest who watched, a text message (SMS) that said, "Father, gud a.m. How did u & companions find play? R u thanking me 4 inviting u or did u find play 2 shockng and inappropriate espclly 4 men, espcially priests? Bahala ka (Up to u) to tell fr. ronald (my academic dean) & fr jerry (rector of the diocesan seminary) 2 watch or not." No response. At 10:07, I sent Fr. Ronald a text message - "Gud a.m. Please ask Fr. Nitodel if he recommends you watch play. He might have found it "bastos" (dirty) and not recommended for people trying to be holy." Soon after, Fr. Ronald replied, "He is with me. I will ask him discretely." 1:05, a message finally turned up from Fr. Nitodel. I was almost afraid to open it but when I did, it said, "I find it very informative. It gives a deeper outlook of a woman. . . her essence and worth. The Seminary Fathers are excited to watch. Ask them afterwards." You can bet I had a good laugh and had fun telling the family table about this exchange. Geeeez. If there's going to be another local performance next year, I'd like to see the play completely adapted to the Philippine setting and maybe next year, I'll invite the nuns in my old school. Can you imagine . . . .
by Andrea L. Si. March, 2005, from the Ecclesia of Women in Asia Archives.