Meg Loughman / Gavel Media

We Need to Talk About Vaginas

In honor of the Vagina Monologues returning to campus, the Gavel revisits reflections from Mariam Ahmed, MCAS '19 and former Digital Editor, on performing in the 2018 monologues. This year, the show will be held Feb. 14, 15, and 16 at 8 p.m. in McGuinn 121. You can purchase tickets here, and all of the proceeds will go to Rosie's Place and the V-Day Foundation.

Performing in The Vagina Monologues was not the hard part. When I was on the other side of the double doors of McGuinn 121, I knew there was a sold-out room. I knew that everyone inside had paid to be there that evening. There was no mystery about what the show entailed, and I found a lot of relief in knowing that everyone performing is doing it because they want to be doing it, and that everyone watching us perform is watching us perform because they want to see it. We had directors who are encouraging and supportive in more ways than one. All the actors are confident, dependable, and fun to work with. Although nerves before any crowd are expected, the hard part was not performing; what was hard was people thinking this show about vaginas is being put on to offend them.

In doing this show, all of us—from the cast to the spotlight people—were doing this to get under someone’s skin; as if women talking about issues that women face is a personal attack. Even though all of the problems that the monologues examine are unconditionally societal, some people think that in doing this we are taking a stab at being radical feminists. The word 'vagina' alone seems to incite offense. Before even seeing the show, some people are deeply offended by the name and concept.

There was a criticism that the Vagina Monologues has no place at Boston College. Now, if that is true, why does it sell out year after year? Even on some of the busiest weekends of the semester?

You see, like women, vaginas are always associated with sex. This is exactly where the problem begins. Boston College is a Jesuit Catholic university that does not acknowledge premarital sex on campus. So, naturally being that vaginas are sex and that sex is vaginas, I see how it can pose a problem. However, there is more to the vagina than it serving as a vessel for male pleasure. It is a necessary organ for urinary and reproductive purposes.

The word 'vagina' does not need to be whispered as if it is an undiscovered airborne disease coming to a college campus near you. We should critically consider why people are uncomfortable with saying it and/or hearing it. Half of the population has a vagina, and the other half is privy to this. And if we want to stop calling it a vagina, what should we call it instead? Vagina is the scientific and academic term for it. Should we keep using euphemisms like “nether regions,” “down there,” or “well, you know” to maintain the faux mystery?

The show, if you have not seen it, does talk about sex, but it is not about sex. It is about women, their experiences, and how they find their way in a world that more often than not makes them feel like second best simply for having a vagina.

During my sophomore year, I saw a sneak peek of the Vagina Monologues on the sixth floor lounge of Vanderslice Hall. ‘The Flood’ monologue is about a 74-year-old New Yorker who could not understand why Eve Ensler was interviewing women about such a thing. She had tried her hardest to forget about her vagina. She understood that it was necessary, but she was not interested its sexual aspects. When she was a teenager, she went out on a date with a boy who she had claimed was cute. Afterwards, they were kissing in his car and, naturally, she got sexually excited. She describes her body’s physical reaction to the make-out as ‘The Flood’.

Unfortunately, he could not appreciate that, if anything, this should have been a compliment to him. So, she spent the rest of her life deeply internalizing his immature response of disgust and embarrassment. This discourse troubled me for weeks to come. I told anyone who would listen all about it. I am happy that we have moved forward enough that I am not consumed by the same self-disgust she felt. At the same rate, I was really distressed that any woman had to live like that.

Doing this show has been a privilege of a lifetime. It would not have been made possible without the unparalleled devotion of Michaela Chipman, MCAS ‘19, who co-directed the Vagina Monologues alongside Samuela Nematchoua, MCAS ‘18. All the show’s proceeds go to Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter in Boston. There is nothing else out there that even resembles this show. It is absolutely crucial for women to see, and for men to hear.

We do not talk enough about vaginas. And, on the occasion that you do hear about a vagina, I would bet that it is in relation to sex. If you don't agree, riddle me this—why is it that every middle schooler can draw a penis, but not a vagina?

Born and raised in North Jersey (yes, it makes a difference).