A friend of mine just posted this article on Facebook. She wasn’t the only one of my Facebook friends to share some bit of media about how Representative Lisa Brown was silenced in Michigan for using the word vagina.
I’m sure that there was a time when I wouldn’t have chosen to use that word either. I would have said something else or not at all, but as the friend that posted this particular article knows, that all changed in seminary. Because she was there when a group of single women decided that the only way they we could celebrate Valentines Day was by reading the Vagina Monologues together. I don’t recall how we decided this exactly but I know I was instrumental in the planning because I was the Chapel Minister. I was the one that reserved the space and welcomed these women into our primary community worship space on that Valentines Day.
We each brought a copy of the play. We shared in some modified ritual of communion and then started reading. We read them as monologues where we each chose one that we wanted to read. And I can’t really tell you what happened that night. We knew what we were doing could upset some of our peers and maybe even some of the faculty who lived just on the other side of the chapel windows, but it was something we needed. We needed that validation as women pursuing degrees in a field that hasn’t traditionally welcomed women. We were like children wanting to jump into the waters of baptism as we laughed and cried as one of our friends screamed “CUNT!” in the seminary chapel.
I wish every woman could feel the blessing I felt that night. It’s the memory that instantly floods back as I wonder why we are so afraid of these words. But, maybe, we all need a simple ritual to claim that taboo language in a way that is life-giving. Because those words have changed for me. I can’t say vagina or pussy or cunt without thinking about how those women that night allowed me embrace my womanhood. We used out words to claim that blessing we needed most. So, I’ll say it again and invoke that blessing for all women: VAGINA.