Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Vagina Knows It’s Beautiful

Do I have your attention? Today is “Turn Beauty Inside Out Day.”

As I drove out yesterday to visit my pregnant daughter in Boston, I listened, on NPR, to a presentation by Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues. You can access the whole presentation, either to read or listen to. She’s worth listening to.

Meanwhile, think about some of these things that she said:

I often hear women in the West talking about the terrible lot of women in Afghanistan, but are you aware that 700,000 women in America are raped every year? We all have different forms of enforced burqas. Every culture has it. Whether it's an idea or a fascist tyranny of what women are supposed to look like - so that women go to the extremes of liposuction, anorexia and bulemia to achieve it - or whether it's being covered in a burqa, we all have deep, profound, ongoing daily forms of oppression. If you're a 13-year-old girl in this country and there's an ideal of what you're supposed to look like, do you really have a choice to look like yourself? The pressure of capitalist consumer culture is more than any 13-year-old girl can bear.

The interviewer for a New York Times Magazine piece kept saying to me, "You're so dramatic." I finally realized what that means: You're really alive. Things really bother you. Things really move you and excite you. Look at teenage girls. They get crazy, excited, pissed off, and they do it all the time. Then the world comes along and shuts it down and clamps it and punishes it, makes it immoral or too sexy. Then we get to be good, contained, quiet, behaved, then disappear.

We have been trained as women to divide against each other, to fight for each other's space, to not believe there's enough for each other.

If you're jealous of your sister, if you think she's shinier, bigger or more fabulous than you, get over it. If you can do anything for a sister today, if you have a moment of jealousy or competition, give her something. If I feel competitive, I just give it away: Have it, take it. Otherwise, I'm saying there's only room for me to shine and not for you to shine - and we all have to shine right now. Remember that Afghanistan is everywhere and that all of us get to be big, so that we can take back the planet.

I don't think women should spend their time recovering and surviving. We have better things to do, like feeding the planet, nurturing, creating, envisioning. If we bang, beat, burn, mutilate and destroy women, we've destroyed everything. If we really put our attention on stopping violence toward women, it would be like bringing back the sun or earth. It's not coincidental that the earth is being destroyed as women are being destroyed.

Know and love thy vagina, and hold it sacred. Do not give it to anyone you do not want to give it to. I mean that as a metaphor. So much of what happens to girls is that we don't know our desires and bodies. We don't know what we want, so we enter the world in a haze. I love college students: They have cunt clubs and big vagina parades and balls, and they have speak-outs. They wear vagina pins. They're outrageous and they're fully here. I look at them and think, What happened to all of us? When did we lose this? Be as revolutionary and passionate as you are, and don't let anyone talk you out of it.

One of the last things Eve Ensler says is this:

In the process of doing "The Vagina Monologues" I have met so many tender, seeking, loving men who really want the world to be better for women and men. We have to allow them to find ways to embrace their own vulnerability and tenderness. We have to stop shaming them for not being these superheroes and power creatures that they're supposed to be.

My soon-to-be grandson has one of these exceptional men as his father. Somehow my son-in-law manages to be a “regular guy” who is tender and sweet and easy and beautiful inside. (And he’s cute, too.)

I spent the past day with my beautiful and pregnant daughter. I held my hand on her belly and felt my grandson respond to my touch. I looked at my daughter, no make-up, hair up in a straggly ponytail, sweat pants hanging below her incredible roundness, glasses sliding down her nose -- and my heart hurt from the beauty of it all -- and her spirit, her heart, her humor. Sprawled across the couch in gestating disarray, she looked more stunningly lovely than she ever has even during her years of modeling and acting and glamorous headshots (which, by the way, cost me a fortune!) And when my son-in-law came home at looked at her, put his hand on her belly, well, it still makes me want to cry from the sweet, sweet beauty of it all.

And that brings me to Chris Locke’s most recent Topica essay, in which he admits “God I do love women” and goes on to yearn for that as yet unmet “partner-in-crime” who will “cover his back,” knows how to be tough as well as tender, knows how to be his best friend.

She says, "You got that certain something..."

"What you give me," I say, "takes my breath away."

I check her eyes to see if she's lying. Gypsy woman. Girl that can tell my fortune, read my future.

Locke’s yearning narrative is seductive because it is what we all yearn for – someone to watch our backs; playfully go toe-to-toe with us; stand with us and by us and for us -- protect us and accept our protection – a partner, a best friend who shares our passions and understands our prisons. The key to our locks. The keys to Locke.

Cast the sticks, pick a card, read the runes, toss a coin. It’s such a crapshoot, isn’t it?

But if you win, it’s absolutely beautiful, inside and out.