How much do you talk about your vagina? And if you do, what do you say? A group of local women have been gathering weekly to create Vagina Conversations #2, under the careful direction of Zenith Virago, culminating in an original, powerful and moving show to be presented at the Byron Theatre over two nights.
Why do women feel the need to talk about their vaginas in a public setting?
There is not a one-size-fits-all-vaginas answer to that question! That you even have to ask that question really shows the need.
Each woman speaking, and those people attending, will have different reasons, most likely because we all have a different life experience and a different relationship with vaginas. If the word vagina makes you uncomfortable… if you have a great relationship with your body, then this is the show for you. We encourage parents with open, honest expansive relationships with their 13–18-year-old daughters, or sons, to bring them, to see women in their power. We are just bringing the topic and the conversation into a more public arena, as an educational and entertaining event.
Why is there so much content around the vagina? What should we expect on coming to the show?
Some of the performers don’t even agree with the word vagina. We are also speaking about pussy, vulva, quim, fanny, and even reclaiming the word cunt.
Vagina comes from the latin word for ‘sheath’. So it is not even a word describing our experience of our sexual activity, to bleed, or the incredible ability to birth life into the world. It was seen by men who put the dictionary together as something purely to sheath the penis. I find that outrageous. Once people know that is the linguistic root, a lot of women are not impressed. I certainly wasn’t.
What are the stories that have made their way to the stage this year?
Many are very funny, some are poignant, some tender, soft, powerful, outraged, hairy, waxed, even a Vagina Slam from wonderful 17-year-old Jess Lu to Feather, who has lived eight decades – hers is an inspiring, rich, full sexually active life, and she is now dating as an octogenarian. We have other stories, poems, dance… exploring birth, sex, menopause, fluidity, death and everything between.
What is the relationship between Vagina Conversations and Vagina Monologues? Why the local-stories angle?
The Monologues by Eve Ensler were pioneering and groundbreaking, and all credit to her and the women who shared their stories in the 90s. After two years of the sold-out VM at Bangalow, as MC I felt the raucous packed houses of women and men enjoying women telling other women’s stories and craving for more. So last year I decided we should be telling our own more contemporary, relevant and empowered stories… and so we did. It was amazing to be there last year; we sold out, so this year there are two nights in the hope we can accommodate everyone.
What is the relationship between One Billion Rising and the Vagina Conversations? Why are these events significant?
One Billion Rising is an action started by Eve Ensler four years ago to harness the energy of women and others to work and demonstrate for equality, respect and justice. It is a global movement. We dance on the streets. In Byron we dance on Main Beach at 7am on 14 February. All are welcome. We will continue to dance and march until all beings are equal.
What was your reaction to the worldwide marches of women against Donald Trump? What does that tell us about the bigger community of women?
Impressed by the response. Saddened by the need to still be standing and marching for equal human rights, equal pay, a basic level of respect, control over our own bodies, freedom to choose what we do with our own bodies. It tells us that people, not only women, are not satisfied with the current disrespectful and misogynist attitudes to women and girls. It’s not just Trump; it is the patriarchal system, based in and shored up by fear and control, that has to go.
As a woman and as a feminist do you see things changing? Are we making ground? How do we get half the population on board…?
As a feminist I feel things are constantly changing; nothing is ever static in the world. Some basic human rights are being improved; others are being replaced and removed. The world is also not just Australia and the US; sexual slavery, political and personal violence against women and children are in epidemic proportions; as the saying goes: eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. We are all in it together; men also lose because of the current high levels of misogyny in the world. We can all make a difference.
How does a show like Vagina Conversations fit with the current conversations on gender fluidity? Do these conversations include sexual or gender identity?
We have tried to broaden the cast and we have a gender-fluid person who will speak from that place and try to shed some light on the subject. I have spent a couple of weeks immersed with others in the understanding and expansion of the non-binary of male and female language and concepts. It is fascinating and I am learning lots. We are seeing so many transgender children and adults; we have to get our minds and hearts around the topic.
Would it make sense for men questioning their conditioning to be doing a show about the penis?
Probably. I think any discussion, and revealing conditioning, is useful, as many people are not even aware of how much they are influenced by stereotypes and cultural norms, but it would be good to ask men that question.
How’s this. When I registered the name Vagina Conversations in 2016 with ASIC, they first refused the application as they deemed the word vagina to be too offensive! In this day and age! Unbelievable! Vagina is the generally accepted term in any medical, sexual or educational context. A broad-based government body trying to censor our experience and our attempt to celebrate and reclaim our bodies.
Time for change, time to celebrate all of who we are.
Tuesday and Wednesday, 14 and 15 February, at 7.30pm at the Byron Theatre. Proceeds go to the Byron Shire Escape Fund. Tickets at the Centre: www.byroncentre.com.au.
To start the celebration joint Byron V Day on Main Beach, wear red, bring placards and join the dance. It’s part of the worldwide One Billion Rising for Justice. Never more important than now, as women’s rights around the world are eroded in the very first week of the Trump presidency. Meet at 6.30am for a 7.30am dance.