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The Goddess Speaks

By Jennifer Meleana Hee

Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Empowering our
bodies, ourselves

"SO, what are you doing?" asked my mom. "Going to see 'The Vagina Monologues,' " I replied.

"Oh, honey," she sighed in her where-did-I-go-wrong tone.

I explained that the play staged in Boston was not pornographic, but rather, a collection of stories told by women about their vagina experiences, some disturbing and some funny.

The next day she asked how "that play" was and I told her it was ... good. What I meant to say was that for two hours of my life I was proud to be a woman. I'm not implying that I wake up every morning and say, "I wish I were a guy," but I go to sleep each night fully aware of the loaded meanings of femininity in our society.

Over the course of a day, I will go to a class and hear yet another lecture attempting to explain why patriarchy is inherently traumatic.

I will spend a few hours with a 7th grade girl I mentor through a project designed to prevent adolescent girls from losing their resistant voices and passively internalizing the superficial values that become so pervasive in high school. She is labeled "at-risk" but I always wonder, "aren't they all?"

I will go to my food service job and wait on middle-aged male Harvard alumni. They will make inappropriate remarks about their wives and I will resist the urge to pour hot coffee down their pants.

FINALLY, I will counsel my peers on relationships, contraception, abortion and sexually transmitted infections. I am always shocked to learn how little young college women know about their own bodies.

By the time I'm in bed all I can think about is what I am learning from all of this; how this is effecting me; and why I am unable to ignore it all and function like everyone else, smiling and nodding through life while somehow managing a successful career, bearing two or three happy children, writing the great American novel and, I suppose, dealing with a quasi-functional marriage.

With graduation months away, "real life" is waiting to suck me into acceptance of the status quo, resignation and stability.

Maybe I'm being melodramatic. All I know is that I am only 20 and every day I see, hear, or learn something that disconcerts me, disappoints me and frightens me a little more.

I avoid the word "feminist" because it scares people. It's associated with too many stereotypes that are not me. But without the baggage, the man-hating-militant-bra-burning connotations, it is me, quietly wishing that I had the balls -- oops, I mean the strength -- to believe that I can be someone.

I don't understand why every woman (and man) isn't a feminist. After all, by definition, to be a feminist is to believe in political, economic and social equality between the sexes.

At "The Vagina Monologues" I was surrounded by an audience of intelligent women comfortable in their bodies; women who were not disconnected, repressed or ashamed.

Yet, many of my female friends have said going to the show would make them uncomfortable. And that is what worries me, that an anatomical body part in the title of a play unique to women is precisely what scares them away.

Perhaps this as a warning. As long as women are too afraid to see parts of their bodies as powerful, life-bearing, and most importantly, part of their selves, then women will continue to be submissive, abused and silent.

Jennifer Meleana Hee is a '97 Iolani graduate
and senior at Harvard University.

The Goddess Speaks runs every Tuesday
and is a column by and about women, our strengths, weaknesses,
quirks and quandaries. If you have something to say, write it and
send it to: The Goddess Speaks, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, P.O.
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