VAGINAS

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had never even seen a production of the Vagina Monologues until I helped put it on at medical school. This was a source of particular shame, for in a previous life, my mother was an Ob/Gyn, and in my present life, I consider myself to be a progressive thinker and feminist. This secret guilt was further complicated by the fact that though AP Biology and I had a solid relationship in high school, the one unit that I just completely failed was the reproductive unit. So there were a lot of things to atone for when I decided to become a part of this event.

The final show itself turned out to be just fabulous, and we raised a ton of money for Rosie’s Place, a Boston-based women’s shelter for abuse victims. I read the concluding poem to the Monologues – Myriam, a recent addition to the play by Eve Ensler about a Haitian feminist and revolutionary, Myriam Merlet, who brought the Vagina Monologues to Haiti, but died in the earthquake. It was beautiful, and I consider myself really lucky to have been chosen for the reading. I won’t measure the impact of this production in simply the number of dollars raised, however, but in some of the following as well.

My Google search history reveals an alarmingly large number of search terms for vaginas, and artistically rendered vaginas, from back when I was coming up with a concept for a promotional poster. The most interesting one was this minimalist representation: ({}).  It makes me chuckle every time I see a pair of parentheses now, which is helpful for when I have to do tedious calculations for physiology and need a laugh to punctuate the long periods of somnolence.

The director of the Vagina Monologues told us actresses to wear all black to the show, with “a splash of color.” Everyone who did the latter chose to wear pink or red sashes and scarves, which is either a direct reflection of societal conceptions of girl-colors, or a subversion of the very same through such a frank embrace. I’m going to go with the latter.

So this weekend, during an NYC getaway, I came across Lee Krasner’s Gaea at the MoMA, and, before I even read the title on the cue card, immediately saw vaginas everywhere. If I could redo the Vagina Monologues poster all over again, I would use this dissonant background for the poster, without question. Despite naming it for the earth goddess, Krasner did not use any green or blue; painting wild and uninhibited arcs in pinks, purples and reds, and bringing to the front a feeling of pain inherent in childbirth, almost. It was such chaos, but I was drawn to it more than any other piece on the fourth floor. Our appreciation of art isn’t complete until we can marry it to our own past experiences, so I don’t think that this was any ordinary coincidence at all.

Krasner. Gaea. 1966

Finally, I think it’s crazy that women graduates of Harvard College continued to be awarded ‘Harvard-Radcliffe’ diplomas until 1999. 1999! I know that it reflects only a nominal enrollment in the historically separate women’s college, but the fact that it took until 1999 for Radcliffe College to be fully absorbed into Harvard University seems ludicrous. I think the Vagina Monologues have reawakened my inner feminist. I haven’t felt this much righteous indignation since Hillary Clinton’s nomination campaign! Perhaps I can soothe myself with some Krasner-inspired retail therapy:

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