By Lauren Orr
I’ve been following Our Shared Shelf on Instagram since Emma Watson began promoting her #heforshe campaign. When I found out that Watson was the UN’s Women’s Goodwill Ambassador, I was not only happy, but impressed. I have always felt that Watson was a fantastic role model for young women all around the world, and not just because she played the intelligent and wonderful Hermione in all the Harry Potter films. I think she is an amazing role model because she graduated high school after filming all those movies and went to Brown and then graduated from there to go to the UN. On top of all of that, she has continued her acting career and maintained a very clean image (which shows that fame doesn’t affect people, but that people are responsible for their actions.) So, of course, bringing it back to my first statement, I thought that looking into Our Shared Shelf wouldn’t be that bad of an idea.
Our Shared Shelf is basically a gigantic feminist book club. On Goodreads.com, there are 167,663 people that are a part of the online forums and discussions. Every month or so, Watson and her team pick a feminist work to read, including Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou, and Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein. The most recent work of choice was The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, which is a play made up of monologues. The monologues are all from different stories about hundreds of women, talking about everything from sexual assault to orgasms, but the main focus of the book is the vagina and why it’s considered such a dirty thing. Most importantly, the book’s purpose is to make women realize that being a woman isn’t wrong, but actually a really freaking awesome and empowering experience.
I decided to start actively reading for the book club starting with The Vagina Monologues, and when I got the news that I was going to start writing for this blog. Even though I am a 100% resolved feminist, I am completely and totally uneducated in feminist history beyond the name Gloria Steinem and whatever I learned in history class. And though I am steadfast in my beliefs, and know an issue when I see one, I must say that in a lot of cases I am a little ignorant when it comes to issues beyond sexual assault. It’s not because I don’t care about the issues of this country and beyond, I just honestly completely and totally hate politics. I have a general idea of things, but I find political happenings to be tiring, and depressing for the most part. For me, politics is all crooked no matter which side you’re on, and I just don’t want to deal with all the insanity.
That being said, I hoped that reading The Vagina Monologues and following Our Shared Shelf would open me up to not only feminist history, but the feminist issues happening now. I knew that this would be a great first step into my non-ignorant period of early adulthood, because it wasn’t technically political and I love to read. I’m not going to lie though, at first it was a bit difficult to read, just because it was so open about women’s experiences. Even for a person who is not ashamed of yelling the word “vagina” in public and proudly carries tampons through the store, The Vagina Monologues was a little overwhelming. After getting over the shock, I realized that shock factor is what made this book or play, however you experience it, so impactful. It made history with how raw and real it was. How it wasn’t afraid to speak the truth about being a woman in American society. It opened the eyes of Americans: male, female, children, adults, everyone. It changed how people viewed womanhood, and started V Day, a global campaign against violence against women. When I realized this, I just loved the power of this one book. Power it has had for twenty-something years. That influence hasn’t dissipated, because even now, in 2017, I can read it and feel just as much empowerment and rage as people must have felt when it was first published and performed.
That is why this book is so important, and I am incredibly lucky that this was my first look at feminist literature and history. The fire was already burning, but this book made it more like a bonfire. It made me want to become less ignorant like I had hoped, but also made me realize that though this was written in the 1990s, nothing has really changed. And that makes me frustrated and ready to do something about it. I am ready to be an advocate now. I am ready to stand up in some random crowd and proudly yell “VAGINA” and flip off the people that tell me to shut up. Because we shouldn’t and we sure as hell won’t.
Over & Out – Lauren
P.S. Go to the UI Women’s Center performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Kenworthy Theatre in Moscow, Feb. 10-11 starting at 7:00 pm!