“ Estoy preocupada. Estoy preocupada por mi vagina”
“ Im worried. I’m worried about my vagina”
Not words you’d expect to hear in Catholic Peru, but hear them I did at a packed-out Miraflores theater. Non other than the internationally recognized play by Vagina Monologues has come to Lima. Now 20 years old, it took its time in arriving (the first play was in 2001), but judging by the size of the audience it is safe to say that there is definite interest among Peruvian women in intimate self-discovery.
It’s a topic of special interest to me, because I am a woman, yes, but also because I am a medical anthropologist. Furthermore, I am a medical anthropologist who works in reproductive health which naturally involves a lot of discussion about female genitalia. In my experience in the Peruvian Andes,, it’s not a topic that people feel able to discuss freely and perhaps a few years ago such a play as vagina monologues wouldn’t have been so popular among a more conservative society. But things are changing. People keep claiming to me that machismo is on the out and feminism is on the rise, especially in the city.
Maybe so, and certainly the conservative avoidance of discussions about feminine anatomy must be dissipating. Vagina Monologues is an easy-to-digest introduction to self-discussion, in my opinion, as it brings humor and playfulness to the topic (as well as touching upon issues of rape and violence, which are also important topics). If you’re not familiar with it or there’s no theater production near you, you can pick it up in book-form as well. But more importantly, what other discussions will this spark among Peruvian women (and men?) in regards to female empowerment? Let’s leave that as an open question…
Beckie is a volunteer with the Karikuy Volunteer Program in Lima, Peru.