Guest column by Lauren Chouinard, senior public relations and advertising major
If you asked me four years ago if I considered myself a feminist, I would have said no. Because four years ago, I thought feminists were exactly as they are portrayed in the media: man-hating, ugly, angry women with rage like Godzilla and legs like King Kong. If four years ago you asked me if I thought women needed equal rights, I would have said, “Don’t we already have equal rights?” But that was four years ago. This is now.
I can tell you the exact day, time and location when I realized I was a feminist. I was sitting in the fourth row of Irvine Lecture Hall to watch a show I had never heard of before: The Vagina Monologues. I only went because one of my best friends was in it. I won’t lie, having women scream the word “VAGINA” at you right off the bat was alarming to my virgin ears. But as the show went on, I began to feel a roller coaster of emotions. Happiness, that women were so in touch with their bodies, spirits and experiences. Sadness, that women around the world suffer horrible fates such as genital mutilation, systematic rape and sexual harassment. Anger, that I had not realized my own oppression before.
All these things I was used to in my everyday life, such as being aggressively hit on by men on the street, being told that I couldn’t wear my favorite dress because it was “too short” and would “tempt men into lust,” and being told that I needed a man to protect me and provide for me, because I couldn’t do it myself. I felt disappointment in myself, because I let these horrible injustices and stereotypes about women perpetuate themselves throughout my entire life. But most of all, I left the theater feeling proud to be a woman.
I sought out opportunities to learn more. I’ve read books, watched movies, taken women’s studies classes and written multiple papers, but the best way to learn about women is to listen to women. Too many times in this world, women are silenced. From being censored on the floor of Congress for saying the word “vagina,” to being told that women have no place in positions of power, women are being shut up and told to “deal with it.”
I was so blessed to be a part of the Vagina Monologues this year, and so honored that I got to share the stage with incredible women who are open, supportive and have inspiring stories. For those who couldn’t make it to this production this year, please go next year. It is a life-changing experience.
Being in The Vagina Monologues has given me the strength to stand up for women. I will not give up the fight until everyone’s story is told. I will not give up until every story is heard. And I especially will not give up until everyone is affected by these stories, and the world becomes a better place.