One woman’s journey with The Vagina Monologues
- Lee y escucha la historia en inglés / read and listen to the story in Spanish.
The Vagina Monologues, the episodic play written in 1996 by Eve Ensler, has had many lives. It is a celebration of women’s empowerment and female anatomy. It's been performed for theater audiences in New York City and sparked the annual celebration of V-Day as part of a campaign to stop violence against women and girls. Annually, communities across the U.S. host local performances of the play.
Last month, on a makeshift stage in a Fort Lewis classroom, an ensemble of Durango-based Latina women staged a bilingual version.
Friends, family members, and allies filled the seats, cheered, and hollered encouragement as the monologues were performed. Some of the monologues are hilarious; others highlight the resilience of women who survive trauma, sexual abuse, and the weight of misogyny.
Yamileth Lopez, who only speaks Spanish, performed the “Hair” monologue.
For Lopez, 43, the lines in the monologue aren’t just words on a page but an echo of her own life experiences.
Growing up in Nicaragua, Lopez said discussions about the female anatomy were taboo in her family.
“Nobody would tell you about your body,” said Lopez. “My mother didn't even tell me about my period. In my time, modesty was a thing. Parents wouldn’t say anything. When I was 15, 16, I had to learn. As I got my period, I had to understand the process as I was changing.”
In the “Hair” monologue, a woman expresses love for her own body, including loving her pubic hair. But the character’s husband feels differently about her pubic hair: He wants to shave it off.
You cannot love a vagina unless you love hair.
Many people do not love hair. My first and only husband
hated hair. He said it was cluttered and dirty.
He made me shave my vagina.
It looked puffy and exposed
and like a little girl.
This excited him.
As the monologue continues, the narrator reveals her husband is unfaithful to her, something Lopez herself could identify with.
“It's something that I lived,” she said.
Sixteen years ago, Lopez returned from Mexico to Durango, and she learned her husband had taken a lover while she was away. It was a difficult period in her life that changed her perspective on her marriage and herself.
"I learned that I have to love myself before loving someone else,” she said. "That I have to do what I like, not what my husband likes or pleases him, no. That’s how I was changed.”
Lopez and her husband reconciled. But Lopez has friends who have suffered even more traumatic relationships.
“I’ve had friends that have been brutally abused. I've had to clean up the marks from the abuse. I have lived through that in my own skin. So there are many parts of the monologues that I identify with very much,” said Lopez.
The Vagina Monologues allows some women to share experiences that are often unspoken and to name them. These common experiences (of performers and audience members alike) give the play some of its power and catharsis for audiences. But the play also has poetry, an ability to awaken self-love through lyrical beauty.
Yamileth Lopez has a favorite line from her monologue:
I realized then that hair is there for a reason — it’s the leaf around the flower, the lawn around the house. You have to love hair in order to love the vagina.