V-Day

Tonight I went to see the Vagina Monologues. I go to performances in general, but I’ll admit this isn’t something I’d usually go to see. For most of it I felt like a spectator; I’m not really the one who needs to hear most of the messages. But I did have two friends in it, so…

One-word summary was “wow”. One-phrase was “a whole lot of emotions in two and a half hours”. Self-empowerment to past pains to mass abuse and femicide to…wonder. Very well done, very powerful. Actually, it felt like a direct descendent of Interprative speech…but it’s for a Purpose now, has more meaning in it, and, of course, is totally politically incorrect. But important.

There are three pieces in particular that were especially worth talking about. The first (actually last in the program) was the story of a woman from Bosnia, representing the thousands of abused women in that war of the 1990s. It wasn’t a particularly well-structured speech, even, but I swear I was tense from maybe the fifth or sixth line, all the way to the end. Not just mentally, but actually physically, clenching my hands and arms.

The second was a true story. I mean, they’re all true stories, to one degree or another, but this was an original piece, delivered by the author, a UC Berkeley student. To be able to get up in front of hundreds of people (thousands, across the three performances) and share this private, painful part of one’s life…there was nothing we as audience members could do. Except on one line, when we couldn’t help but snap in quiet encouragement. “I finally realized that it wasn’t my fault.”

The last was a composite story of transsexual women (to be clear on the term, born as men). This is the one I suppose I could relate to the most, those who had at least experienced the male side of things. I don’t know how the transsexual procedures are carried out, but clearly these people were happier afterwards. (The piece was reportedly delivered originally by an all-transsexual cast.) I did, however, disagree with the idea that they would then have the freedom to touch, speak softly, whatever. Or rather, that it was automatic. Such attributes are delineated by gender in our society, but they shouldn’t be; a man should have such freedom to be “soft” and still be a man. (As a not-so-manly man, so I think.)

The end of this third piece also brought up an interesting question in my mind: would I be comfortable if my girlfriend was transsexual? I am ashamed to admit that right now I don’t think I would be comfortable, which my conscious mind rejects as wrong. It should not matter. Love should be independent of gender on both sides.

Overall, it was a powerful performance. Moving me to action, but to what action?

If only there was an easy answer. Congratulations to Kate, Elaine, and all the other amazing performers tonight.

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