I remember hearing about the Vagina Monologues back in my hometown of Islamabad, Pakistan. I remember it particularly because I wasn’t sure the title was something I could say out loud in public without being embarrassed. I was of course, much younger. A teenager unsure of what my own vagina was. Or it was one of those things, you know, like Death. We all know we’re going to die but we don’t need to talk about it right? Except that this was somehow worse. Mentioning one’s vagina always had an effect. You know, almost as if one could smell it in the air at the mention of the word. Much like one’s period - we just don’t need to acknowledge certain facts of our lives, correct? Maybe that’s why this caught my attention more. I was the quintessential teenager - I thrived on rebellion.
Upon further inspection of the work and allowing myself to delve further into the performing arts, Fate would have it that I’d later perform more of Eve Ensler’s work. In Pakistan. We read and told the stories of women across the globe shining a light on their shared experiences of the perception of their bodies. And I was moved. How universal were their stories that we could all connect and relate? How alive and proud did I feel to be a female having read and voiced the struggles of these women? How much more did I want to explore my own female identity? There are so many reasons to come back to this work.
A recent immigrant to America, I’ll be honest, this is a most enlightening time to explore myself. Everyday I am reminded of the new found freedom I have as a woman to express myself and exist in ways I was unable to back home. This isn’t to say that back home is what the media portrays. It’s a sliding scale and I was fortunate to have lived a privileged life in Pakistan with choices many women do not typically have. But having said that, there are unexplored facets I did not know I had that I am now experiencing here and I think it is almost serendipitous that my arrival in America is timed with what is a deep and powerful movement for women to claim their identities for themselves and restructure the status quo. For me, this feels like warp speed but the exhilaration to be alive in a time like this - a time to be inspired, to learn that empowerment begins within and that I am not alone in each step I take in my metamorphosis - is a blessing. The world is awake, I am awake and I am excited to see where this important time takes us as a whole.
There are so many reasons to come back to this work. To share these stories, to live in the words of someone else, to see that our story is one. I am thrilled to be a voice to add to the conversation. I am honored to be a voice that echoes in the battle cry. I am grateful to be a voice that is welcomed into what is now home.
-Submitted by Shahana Jan, Woman 3, V2: Creation Myth