Last week I had the extreme pleasure of seeing a student performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. Approximately 40, brave undergraduate women participated. Far more of them were white, but there was also a handful of black women, including one of my advisees. She played the role of “The Angry Vagina.” It was a fantastic performance, she was convincingly angry, her vernacular was appropriately explicit, she checked hypothetical partners (and gynecologists) for all hypothetical atrocities. I couldn’t help feeling like she had been chosen for this role because she was black (we discussed this and she agreed), even though it also seemed like the role was inauthentically black (we both agreed as well). It didn’t seem like what any black woman I knew would say.
While I applaud Eve Ensler for her progressive theatrical piece, and I have willingly seen now a professional and student production (and left the latter happily with my “Team Rihanna” and vagina buttons), I wonder what black woman would say about sex, body image, rape and sexual assault, etc., if given the platform. I’m thinking about Tricia Rose’s phenomenal book, Longing To Tell. I am also fearing that black women are not really ready to talk openly about the issues raised in that book, that they feel protected by silence and anonymity. I see this explicitly in my current book project.
One of the interesting things about Vagina Monologues is that there is only one very recently written piece about childbirth. It was quite curiously an afterthought. I am certainly liberal enough to think that a woman’s body is not entirely reserved for bearing kids, however would black women have omitted this altogether from our stories about our vaginas?
My vagina is feeling a little spent! 🙂 Three kids later, multiple partners in, one rape, and countless dreaded gynecological visits, I’m feeling like at the very least I should be other-bodily-part centered. Like, I would love to be more focused on my stomach, thighs, or my arms. Last night in a spirited conversation about weight loss with two other black women, one of my homegirls told me, “you know sex is supposed to help you shed calories!” I said something like, “I’m married and I don’t have sex,” which thankfully is not true, but I wanted to say something like, “who cares about the vagina, and all activity therein, I want Serena Williams’ abs and arms not her . . . . vagina.” Damn, I don’t even have a working, blog-friendly, authentic vocabulary for it!?!
I do not think my vagina is so much angry as it is exhausted.
Tanji is a wife and mother of three. She has two boys and one girl. She lives in Philadelphia, her favorite chocolate city. She is an educator and her first “baby” is now a Howard University graduate and a Cocoa Mama.