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The Vagina Monologues: Behind Closed Doors to Center Stage

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What if the vagina spoke? It is stereotypical that non-medical use of ‘vagina’ is considered taboo and is spoken in hushed tones in casual conversations. The current taboo nature of feminine sexuality is indicative that women speaking about their bodies, sexuality, and childbirth makes most people uncomfortable. Additionally, if those aspects of women’s lives are wearing a veil in silence, it is a just extrapolation that, more often than not, all other related issues get suppressed under the guise of the very same silence. It is common knowledge that many victimized women do not report rape or domestic abuse because of a sense of shame and disgrace. It is high time those suppressed experiences and personal accounts get center stage. This is what The Vagina Monologues is all about.

The Vagina Monologues is a revolutionary platform to voice various stories detailing female experiences, particularly highlighting the various lessons learned by the respective women sharing the stories; a chance to speak up, a chance to learn about people, and a chance to actually listen to women’s uncensored plight. While many still struggle to voice out even the word ‘vagina’, the monologues provides an unrestricted, public and well-publicized opportunity for women – a play that seeks to liberate women and make it possible for them to speak the truth about their lives through the means of a theatrical performance.

The Vagina Monologues was initiated in 1996 as a one-woman show, to portray a series of character-driven pieces with poetry – each revealing a different woman’s experience of struggle with her own body issues and identity along with topics such as sex, love, tenderness, embarrassment, cruelty, pain, and pleasure. The play was initially a celebration of vaginas and femininity which progressed into a movement combating gender-based violence. A fictional series of accounts, based on more than two hundred interviews with women of different races and ages about their relationships with their bodies, The Vagina Monologues was written by Eve Ensler, an American playwright, performer, feminist, and an activist.

Stories range from a chorus of girlhood experiences of their first period to a woman raging against the pressures to have to shave her pubic hair and have moments of side-splitting humor as well as other moments that make the audience weep. The play portrays women developing healthy re¬lationships with their bodies mainly by enjoying¬ carnal pleasures that men are so openly permitted to discuss. Women are directed to simply feel good about their bodies.

The Monologues further discusses female masturba¬tion, eroticism, sexual desire, and other themes generally marginalized or excluded from main¬stream public discussion, thereby empowering women as liberated and sexually aware and decisive subjects.

Additionally, as a global phenomenon, productions of the Monologues has been accompanied by ‘V-Day’, a campaign which raises money in support of grassroots organizations addressing issues of gender-based violence. According to the official V-Day website, “V-Day is a catalyst that promotes creative events to increase awareness, raise money and revitalize the spirit of existing anti-violence organizations. V-Day generates broader attention for the fight to stop violence against women and girls”.

The Vagina Monologues was performed in Kathmandu for the third year in a row as a benefit production for Hamri Bahini – a women’s empowerment program fueled by a green social enterprise. It envisions to economically empower women by creating job opportunities. Additionally, that despite the relatively conservative nature of the Nepalese society, events such as the Vagina Monologues are becoming popular amongst performers and audiences alike.

The Vagina Monologues is not just a play, it is a process. Movements like these act as agents of change that look to bring about a revolution in the ways both men and women perceive female sexuality. Even as Nepal struggles to change the patriarchal mindset so entrenched in our society, the performances can play a crucial role in curbing the gap. Additionally, it undoubtedly is the platform for women to talk about themselves freely. From behind closed doors to the center stage, The Vagina Monologues’ efforts to break the silence regarding female sexuality is commendable and commands appraise from all.

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