Sunday, April 13, 2008

Why call it VDay? Who wins?

I went. I got a ticket at the last minute from friend (who will stay nameless, as I think she was involved with the setup and has a professional reputation to maintain). I went because I thought "maybe you're missing something tribal, something necessary for the city, or necessary for you- try to join."
We went by scooter from Mid City as parking was scary, so funny to see two straight
(straight mentioned because it changes how you ride a scooter) grown women riding on a tiny scooter to the evening female mecca. It was fun to arrive that way. We joined the throngs heading to the Arena, then got to the second level and froze.
2 doors open (of 20 or more?) and lines so long it was disconcerting. No signs welcoming, no idea about how to queue up (and those woman really wanted to know how to get along, let me tell you) so we politely pushed our bodies into the mash and swam as a school happily chatting with pink boa wearing Canadians (so many Canadians, why?) and many familiar faces. Man at the door checking bags, women inside scanning tickets. Anyone think about that?
So, we passed the bag test ("ma'am, can you move the knitting aside?") and then squeezed through and past the concession area (7.00 a beer?!), then found our excellent, mostly empty section, so my friend called her friends in higher seats and directed them to us. Her mom came with her friends, and it was quite fascinating to see mother/daughter interaction.
Anyway- I was concerned quite quickly when the female Mardi Gras Indians (huh?) came in chanting and leading the line of celebrity readers, who raised their arms in V's or waved at the thousands cheering their well known faces, and then those chosen stars lined up in front of their red draped chairs in the inner circle around the stage.
Once they sat (after dancing in place for a bit, with Jane Fonda getting the biggest cheers when shown on screen- no sight then of the new Eleanor Roosevelt- Oprah) the whole place went dark.
It re-lit with pulsating music blaring (god, the blaring of the music! what is this new obsession with extraordinary LOUD music at events?) with a woman laying prone in the middle of the (quite excellent) V-Day logo circle with 2 brackets inside-just picture it.
The place erupted after a moment as we all saw the woman, and she jumped up and it was her. Eve, mother of V-Day. Eve Ensler with her Louise Brooke haircut and red satin (?) jumpsuit.
Madonna microphone attached to her head, she started, "(SHOUTING) Welcome!"
roars from the crowd in reply. After a cult-like welcome, much talk mostly about vaginas and her process to this moment and then a quite nice tie in with New Orleans being the vagina of America (you know, wet, desirable, but also messy, smelly and "down there") which was well done. Witty, and the last time I felt connected (foreshadowing...)

She finished her (understandable for her) excited shouting (but did anyone do a sound check?) and then went to sit down in the first red chair.
The screens said: "Doris Roberts and Didi Conn". I actually heard someone behind me say "I love Marie"(meaning Doris Roberts' character from Everyone Loves Raymond, although I remember her from Angie and Remington Steele) and then Didi Conn did a bit of hand jive for Grease fans, which is sad as her famous work was clearly "Benson" and the "You Light Up My Life" movie that friend Jennifer has never forgotten.
They face each other and read off pink cards (wait-aren't they ACTRESSES? Couldn't they memorize this bit?) and read two of the monologues. They also had Madonna mics which is funny to see on Doris Roberts for some reason.
I guess I should have read the book. Are these monologues of regular people? They seemed so theater-like, but maybe just having well-known actresses read them gave them more meaning and I could see how just a quiet read in a small theater would have set the mood correctly.
I have pretty good powers of focus, but kept losing track of story lines. The vagina as a village totally confused me as I was not sure that the rape was a person or the village or both. And I really wanted to understand.
I listened to a few more and then decided to go. I actually felt a bit guilty about leaving, but figured me and my vagina could do whatever we thought was right. For us.

I left and as I went through the doors to leave, a woman security opened the door and said, "ma'am? are you leaving?"
"Yes. both of us" (she was confused by that.)
I think I was the first to leave.

I found my scooter (after the long walk to it, thinking how ironic it would be if I were the victim of violence leaving the arena, with actual fear making my keys tight in my fist) and thought all of the way home:
What was that?

Why did I not get it?

Was I just repressed, or am I empowered?

I thought (at about Broad Street ironically) of Dorothy Parker, Lillian Hellman, Virgina Woolf and Mary McCarthy. And what if the Vagina Monologues had been written by these writers who were absolutely committed to social change through their female artistic license; the writers who brought us Big Blonde, Pentimento, To the Lighthouse and The Group and who lived their art. Writers who made sure they wrote well as they were hoping to be judged as peers of the men who shouldered their way past them to the bar and were more well-known and respected for a long period of their lives. Hellman still lives under the shadow that Dashiell Hammett is thought by some to have written her best work while they were together. Assholes; that's a New Orleans voice if I have ever heard one...
I thought about how they and others made me understand the sadness of women who were frozen by their chosen (by them or another) roles. I understood from their excellent writing (even though I was from another time) the anger and prisons of women of their time.
Maybe my Vagina Monologues was when I read Sonia Johnson in mid 80s while at a conference in Illinois; I have never forgotten how I felt for weeks (still actually) after reading Sonia's assertion that it was the women's movement's failure to secure real change at the time of Roe Vs Wade. Or when my friend Scott and I bonded discussing Dworkin with a bit of fear and mocking tone, as we barely agreed, but...often did with her view on pornography and its effect on women.
Or my reading of Steinem's clearly written essays of her political metamorphosis.
Or listening to Nina Simone sing.
Or, when I read interviews with female rap artists who talked of their rights as queens and poets.
The first time I was at Planned Parenthood in Lakewood?
Patty Hearst breaking free? Diane Keaton cruising bars in that movie- yeah I know the ending. Patti Smith telling me Jesus died for someone's sins but not hers? Streisand not taking shit-ever? Didion taking on the hippies? Julia Butterfly Hill in that tree? Me as a door to door canvasser for years talking political change with ironworkers at their doors and them thanking me as they supported the work?

Well, whatever did it, it has been done, so going to the Arena was probably not necessary. For me and my vagina. Again, just our choice.
For others? (Hey Dar, Can you let it go enough to see how it helps others?) Yes but...
I do worry that talking about the vagina as the seat of power is (as friend I called to discuss said) " so, we're like men now?"
What she meant was are we too obsessed with a part of the body that is wonderful, necessary to life and beautiful, but not all of the point?
Is it a bit...(shit this is the phrase I tried to avoid)...self-indulgent? That's the phrase an extremely intelligent young friend gave me when I described the night to her as we sat in the sun the next day. One of many young friends who had no interest in V Day.
I am not speaking of self-indulgency with respect to real terrors many face.

I have felt the horror and the ties to women of the world who suffer female mutilation and rape as warmongering and loss of freedom because they are women, but is it because of the vagina-or the penis- or because all people without power become victims sooner or later, no matter their reproductive functions?
Are we now acting in male fashion to wave our organs as if they matter more than the other "side"?
Or to do monologues where vaginas are described as being ANGRY?
Can we really make change by sitting in a large SPORTS arena, hearing a monologue in an rich American city (even one at war like ours is) with our comfortable lives (even ours in federally assigned trailers) watching celebrities shout their lines (really, that was annoying) with lighting carefully designed to heighten cheers/applause at crucial moments?

Is this a movement or a moment?
As a moment, it was lovely for some, I could see that. As a movement, this part seems shaky and somehow consumer driven; would I see as many women that bought tickets to this play (that Oprah was to be the main draw but did not show) ask their sons to volunteer often at a senior center or to not play violent video games that brutalize women?
Who am I? How dare I? Why write this, why not just let my sisters (and a few brothers) who needed it, have it? In a way, I hope they do dismiss this, because then I will know it is a movement, if it retains its power after. I hope it, but I fear otherwise.

So, my young friends who do see the personal as political choice without intellectualizing any of it are my actual heroes, and they do exist. Some were at the Arena, but for them, the ones I know, I think they went to share common good, and not to wave a flag.

I can only say that I hope that V Day 10 is not the 2008 version of the urban myth of the Miss America bra burning; a hurtful rather than helpful cartoon of women and their political choices when free to choose.

No comments: