The Vagina MonologuesI saw this last Thursday. There has been so much ado and excitement surrounding the Nigerian production and, never having seen any version of the VM, I was curious to see what all the hype was about.
My first thought was "Who’s going to leave work early on a weekday to make a 6pm showing of a play?" Could I have been more wrong? The Agip Hall at the MUSON Center was filled with many of Lagos’s who’s who, as well as us more ordinary folk.
The host assured us repeatedly that there was nothing shocking about what we were about to see, which only succeeded in getting me ready to be thoroughly scandalized.
For people who have never heard of the Vagina Monologues, (Under what rock have you been living for the last few years?), it is a series of monologues about the vagina and in some cases by the vagina. What would the vagina say if it could talk, what would it wear, what have been the experiences of vaginas (and their owners) in different parts of the globe (this included stories of rape, domestic violence, lesbianism and coming to love the vagina). The performances were wonderful all around, although I particularly enjoyed the monologues of Iretiola Doyle, Elvina Ibru (what a commanding presence she has), Omonor Imobhio, Joke Silva and Buki Ajayi.
The vagina celebration ended with an exquisitely eloquent exhortation by Joke Silva to reclaim the dreaded c-word - cunt. As beautiful as she made it sound, I still hate the word! I shudder to type it. And reading it (especially on my blog) is even worse! And that’s because I cannot get away from the venom and hate behind the word when it’s hurled at women as the worst possible kind of insult. The argument that words (or people, for that matter) only have power over you when you permit them to, and that by 'reclaiming' the word you take away the sting, is a common one. But I cannot agree with it. If a word was borne in hateful circumstances and its early and/or common uses are as such, then how can such a word become redeemed? How can you take it for your own and use it without feeling the hurt that it was meant to inflict? (Now, I’ve started wondering about the origins of the word.) I feel the same way about the word "nigger" and that’s why I would never ever use it.
The host’s assurances about the content of the play turned out to be highly unnecessary. For one thing, he was kinda, sorta right. There was nothing overly shocking (to me – I should add). I would have expected many Nigerians to take exception to some of the explicit language and descriptions, as well as to the reference to lesbianism, which brings me to my second point. The host was, I felt, preaching to the choir. I mean, you do have to be already somewhat interested in the subject matter or sufficiently open-minded to shell out money to see a play called "The Vagina Monologues." Definitely not every Nigerian is conservative by nature and would shy from frank sexual discussions, but I’m not sure that other groups of people would have come to see this play.
On reflection, it probably would have been more interesting to see it at the University of Lagos, where it was cheaper and would have attracted more diverse groups of people.