I did the Vagina Monologues for the first time. The experience was unlike any other because the show featured an all women of color cast. Students at Columbia University produced and directed a stunning creative work that captured an expansive audience. The Vagina Monologues is very well known in feminist circles, but I believe that we propelled the iconic show to unrivaled heights.
The response to our show was amazing. Although initially met with controversy, the audience finally understood just how important this show meant to young women of color. All too often we are pushed aside and ignored; our voices have been silenced for centuries through overt aggression and institutional discrimination. We are expected to conform to impossible standards of beauty, while denying our heritage. There are hardly any safe spaces where we can share our experiences in a nonjudgmental community of support, love, and security.
This show was a response to the culture of racism, denial, and ignorance.
Being a part of this show was exactly what I needed. It filled a inexplicable void that I was unable to encompass. During college, I suffered from many an existential crisis. I questioned my sanity as I traipsed through campus feeling disregarded. I couldn’t comprehend my feelings of “otherness.” I figured maybe I was homesick or just growing up. But now, I understand just how hurt, fearful, and frustrated I was.
I was hurt, fearful, and frustrated all because I was an uncommon spectacle in a country of whiteness.
It’s fascinating how racism has manifested through the centuries. Built on a historically racist foundation, today, people and institutions disenfranchise and discriminate against people of color in a plethora of ways. Some forms of discrimination are overt and unapologetic; others are hidden and difficult to expose. In college, I was the victim of the latter; I knew I was being judged based on my appearance, but I couldn’t figure out the extent of the discrimination. Was it when people made assumptions about me? Or when they treated me in certain ways? When they called me exotic? Or said they don’t like people from the “ghetto”? Was it when they interrogated me in my own home?
I couldn’t process my discomfort, but it made me angry. I became reading up on racial literature, trying to find the perfect words. I tried to discover the cause of this racial phenomenon. Gradually, I learned. I’m no expert, but I am unafraid to say that I have a great handle on racial theory and how racial actions are executed in certain socioeconomic spheres.
But this wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to act on my knowledge. I wanted to educate and execute solutions to the problems I found most pressing. At first, people weren’t entirely receptive to my opinions. Some of that is my fault; I did not know how to craft my racial language in a way that people unfamiliar with racial dialogue could understand.
Now, I’ve gotten better, but just writing wasn’t enough. I needed action. Positive action.
By this time, I had graduated and was working a delightful 9-5. I needed something else to occupy my space; I wanted to find more ways to best articulate myself. I came across Columbia U Vagina Monologues production. And of course, what stood out most was that the cast would be only women of color. I immediately auditioned, and was fortunate enough to have been casted.
Throughout the course of rehearsal, I developed close and honest bonds with the cast. These women were some of the kindest, strongest, honest women I had ever met. They understood and empathized with my experiences because they had been through them as well. We offered each other advice and love. For the first time in a very long time, I felt like I was a part of something larger than myself; that I belonged. That I was appreciated for being just the way I wanted to be.
This experience will never leave me. The other night, I was asked if I’d ever participate in VagMo ever again. I couldn’t answer. This experience was too perfect, and I doubt that it can ever be replicated.
Being in this cast strengthened my beliefs in feminism and racial identity.
I now have a clearer sense of my professional future. I know that I want to work with women, especially women of color. I know I want to fight racial discrimination, and I’ll blog my way through it all. I better appreciate the concept of community. I want to continue fostering bonds with people who understand the unique obstacles that women of color face.
The Vagina is my outlet. It is how I express myself and my love of community. The Vagina is how I continue to believe in racial and gender equity. The Vagina is how I pay homage to my ancestors and their selfless struggles.