By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March. 10, 2012
“I’m here to get a ticket for the play,” I told the person at the ticket counter.
“Oh, you mean for the V-monologues,” the ticker seller said, handing me the ticket.
We had both managed to avoid the word on which Eve Ensler’s entire play is centred on.
Our disquiet and embarrassing silence at the mention of a woman’s private part was precisely the reason why Eve Ensler used the word vagina in her avant-garde play, The Vagina Monologues.
The word vagina, she said, makes people feel anxious and awkard.
“I say it because I’m not supposed to say it,” she said.
In Vagina Monologue, that word–and its many synonyms—is said aloud, softly, passionately, angrily, as a soft chant and a seething roar, as a metaphor for rebellion and reclamation.
The word and all its symbolic possibilities found a voice in seven Squamish women who presented the play at the Brackendale Art Gallery on Fri, March.9th.
Deanna Enders, Christine Selda, Patricia Heintzman, Roseanne George, Shealagh King, Tessa McLoughlin, and Wanda Groetelaars narrated the monologues.
The play was organised by the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, to which the proceeds of the play would go.
More than 80 women came to see the play that brought a no-hold-barred rawness right at the outset as these seven women opened the floor with observations on what vaginas would wear and what they would say if they had that choice.
Sadly, there were only a few men, and they didn’t as much as squeak as the theatre filled with raucous laughter.
Controlling a woman’s body, her sexuality, is crucial to patriarchal hierarchies, and that theme, unsaid, runs like a djembe beat throughout the monologues.
The play’s tone and its overall mood, however, is hardly mournful.
If anything it’s carvinalesque, even in darker moments, especially for a play that is a fierce rebuttal to patriarchy and violence against women.
The flood, a humorous, erotic, and often poignant monologue of a 70-year woman finds justice in the voice of Patricia Heintzman who had the audience in splits with her jewish accent.
My Angry Vagina, in the voice of Tessa McLoughlin, is a funny yet cutting take on the commercial pressures of tampons and perfume sprays wrought upon the vagina.
But even in the most humorous monologues, the threat of violence and menace is never far from the surface.
Ensler deftly uses humour to make the audience slightly complacent first, but we soon find out this play is more than just a few women poking harmless fun at a taboo subject.
For no sooner has the audience settled cozily in their seats, the most haunting stories come out.
These are stories where the vaginas are cut and shredded, where they are impaled with rifles and bayonets, where they are mutilated simply so women can’t enjoy sex.
This violence is not senseless: Rape was a tactic of war as in Bosnia still is in Congo, and female genital mutilation is a social law on whose receiving end have been millions of womem.
As many as 5,000 women die every year at the hands of their family members in the name of honour killing.
The Vagina Monologue gives a voice to their memory.
And so do those who perform it, like the seven Squamish women at the Brackendale Art Gallery on Friday, who won the audience, despite the fact there was no action on stage, and they had only a feather boa as a prop.
Hopefully, the women’s centre will organise more shows in the future, and here’s hoping more men will come to see it, to show their support, and to take a moment to realise the privilege and shame of their species.