Monday, March 14, 2011

Toward a Theology of Happy Vaginas

Once upon a time, feminists burned their bras, eschewed lipstick, attacked patriarchy, and got really loud and angry. This was apparently very necessary, though I wasn’t there to see it. I know for sure that we could not be doing what we do now, if they had not done what they did first. But some things are different now.

I always assumed that feminists don’t wear makeup. But sometimes, these days, feminists put on a lot of lipstick, and expensive bras, and our best (black and pink and red) fancy clothes, and we get on stage and we talk about our vaginas. And about womanhood, and about rape and violence and pleasure. We act out orgasmic moans on stage and this is as important as any march or protest sign.

In some ways this is even harder. For me it is easy to be ugly and outraged. It is much harder to be beautiful and happy. It is easier to complain about what’s bad than to celebrate what is good. When we (group of directors) did casting for the Vagina Monologues, we asked the cast members which monologues they were comfortable with, and people were overwhelmingly MORE comfortable with talking about death, rape, pain, Haiti, and New Orleans, than with pleasure, clitoris, affection, love, and orgasm.

I do not mean to break the world into a gender dichotomy, but I offer a tentative thesis that this is more of a female problem. Theology often reinforces it, because theology is still so steeped in the voices of the only people who were allowed to talk for millenia, men – who often don’t have this problem the way we do.
The problem is that we (women) are too willing to martyr ourselves, and even when we fight for our own rights and power, we end up martyring ourselves in the cause to liberate that very self we’ve just martyred. Oops.

Someone wanted to sing “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in praise band last week, but I resisted that one. The chorus sings in jubilant tones that the “wonderful” cross “bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live.” This may be someone’s favorite verse, but for us, it is the very opposite of our message. Coming to die is the easy part, for too many women. We are raped every 90 seconds, we die every day, we deny ourselves at each meal, and we internalize this suffering as if it could somehow be our salvation. We swallow it every morning with our nasty medicinal protein shakes, and it goes down easy.
The hard part is to realize we are invited “to come and live.” To live, to breathe, to not apologize for the space we take up, to hunger, to demand justice, to want, to create. Christ came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). And so we spit out that medicine of suffering and death, and claim our vocation: to flourish in spite of it all.

Sometimes we do this with arguments, books, debates, seven-point sermons. But sometimes we do it in narrative form. Instead of a counterargument, we tell a counterstory. A story about love and violence and no more violence, a story about how we have stopped hating ourselves and started loving, enjoying, taking pleasure in life. It is a radical statement to be beautiful and happy in the face of such suffering. In our makeup and dresses and artistry and song, we embody our faith – that God loves us, heals us, sets us free, and wants us to have that life abundant. We claim it now and step into it now.
We are giving up silence for Lent.
We will dare to be alive, instead.

More pics on picasa


  1. Thank you, T..... May this Lent be a time when we come-to-life! When we live past the cliches and the categories... and live into what gives us life. Sometimes this very well will involve sacrifice.... Other times it just will not involve sacrifice. It just might be a willingness to speak up about our loveliness and each other's. Thank you for giving me the time and space to speak. My vagina is happy. :)

  2. Thanks for this post, Talitha. I appreciate reading your perspective and I agree with you. I hope Lent is a time of truth-telling, living and voice-lifting for our world.

  3. beautiful and inspiring

  4. Glad to see the Feminist group is alive and well at SFTS. I was an honorary member while a student.

  5. Great post Talitha! I keep forgetting to do my own blog about it with all of the pictures I took!

  6. I thought vaginas are always happy. Isn't that why they're called the vertical smile?

  7. @anonymous - well, not always. They get angry about some things, like dry tampons and uncomfy gynecological exams and shaving infections and female circumcision and rape. There's a whole monologue in the set called "my angry vagina."