A guy’s guide to experiencing “The Vagina Monologues.”

Zachpillips.color.jpg
Zachary Phillips

February 14 can be a hectic day for men, and not because of everyone’s favorite love-struck holiday. No, it isn’t the burden of having to buy their significant other heart-shaped boxes of chocolates that has men dreading February.

It’s vaginas.

Since they were first written in 1998, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” have received global recognition for their candor, humor, and all-around empowerment for women.

February 14, 2001 marked the very fist V-day celebration, a global movement to end violence against women. Chico State’s Gender and Sexuality Equity Center, along with many college campuses worldwide, celebrates V-day with a benefit performance of Ensler’s monologues.

Although Eve Ensler’s work on “The Vagina Monologues” and V-day has brought about awareness, liberation, and healing for women worldwide, these events can be a great source of woe for men.

As a man who has seen the monologues performed, and survived, I have compiled some tips and reminders for this year’s attendees.

Remember: It’s all temporary.

During the monologues, it is easy for a man to get caught up in the storm.

Monologue side effects for men can include moderate to severe discomfort, nervous sweats, a lack of understanding, and alienation. These side effects, however, are only temporary and will have no long-term effect on the viewer, unless he chooses to learn from the experience and leave with a greater understanding of what it means to suspend privilege and learn from others’ stories.

Remember: This won’t make sense.

Men who have attended the monologues often express how they couldn’t understand much of the content. Some of it was uncomfortable to listen to, some of it seemed inappropriate, and some of it just didn’t make sense.

These feelings are both valid and understandable. I could be mistaken, but my understanding is that if an audience member has not had a vagina at some point in their life, then some of monologues’ content simply won’t make sense.

That doesn’t mean the whole experience will be wasted. Understanding every single nuance of the monologues is, by no means, necessary in order to walk away with a new perspective on sexuality, relationships, violence, and life in general.

Remember: This wasn’t written for you.

Men who have experienced discomfort and alienation during “The Vagina Monologues” will oftentimes internalize those emotions, forming them into judgments.

“This is inappropriate.”

“No one wants to hear that.”

“This isn’t empowering towards woman, it’s demeaning.”

Ensler wrote them as a celebration of women’s sexuality and empowerment. A man’s claim that the monologues do not empower women, is like someone lacking taste buds claiming that Thai cuisine is bland.

The opinion exists, but it carries little merit or validity in the eyes of others who are better equipped with understanding.

The monologues may empower some women, or offend others. That really isn’t up to the male audience to decide.

Keeping these tips in mind, viewers, both men and women, have an opportunity to learn a lot from “The Vagina Monologues”.

Zachary Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or @ZachSPhillips on Twitter.