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Friday, February 03, 2017

In Praise of Nasty Women

Written by  Brian George Hose

Those of you who read my last column may remember that I was feeling grumpy about the inauguration casting a somber veil over my birthday weekend. It may seem petty, but it strikes me as cruelly ironic that a day to celebrate me, a gay man, be shared with the inauguration of an administration that doesn’t seem to care for my kind. In my last piece I took comfort in schadenfreude; this time, I’m here to sing the praises of nasty women.

The Women’s March took place the day after the inauguration. Women (and men) gathered in Washington, D.C., and over 500 sister marches in cities all around the world to stand up for the rights of women. An exact tally isn’t available, but I’ve read estimates ranging from 3,000,000 to over 4,000,000 people in attendance, or one in 100 Americans, which is both a wonderful achievement and a powerful reminder that women make up more than half of our country. Let me repeat that. More than half.

During the March, actress/activist Ashley Judd delivered a passionate recitation of Nina Donovan’s poem, “Nasty Woman,” that highlights gender inequality in the U.S. In case you missed it, Donovan’s poem reclaims the word nasty, a word Trump used to describe Hillary Clinton in the second presidential debate, and illustrates the double standards women face in our society. It was a powerful and moving thing to see.

It’s probably not much of a surprise that I love “nasty” women. “Nasty” women speak their mind, make their own decisions, and do things “nice” women aren’t supposed to do. “Nasty” women get the job done, even though they’re paid less than men to do it. They display the qualities of independence and leadership that are admired in a man but criticized in a woman. They know they will be called “nasty” or far worse for letting their light shine, but they do it anyway. It seems that being “nasty” means being brave enough to stand up for yourself and your rights, which is, frankly, the epitome of what an American citizen should be.

Which brings me to one of my favorite “nasty” women– Eve Ensler. Eve Ensler is a social worker turned playwright and is the creator of V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls, that is usually celebrated in February. Events usually center around a performance of Ensler’s groundbreaking play The Vagina Monologues, performed by women (both cis and trans) from the community. For this reason, it has become popular on college campuses and in community centers around the world. Information about women’s issues and resources are available, and proceeds benefit local organizations that serve and empower women.

If you’ve never experienced it, I cannot recommend The Vagina Monologues enough. The play was inspired by over 200 vagina interviews Eve Ensler conducted. At the time, the word vagina wasn’t allowed on network TV and Ensler wondered what women would say about their vaginas if they had the chance. The result is a piece that describes the lives and experiences of women in humorous, informative, and sometimes heartbreaking monologues. The cast is always made up of volunteers, women who really want to be involved, which gives each production an infectious energy. Ensler is also trans friendly, allowing any person identifying as female to perform. In 2004 there was even an all-transgender cast. All in all, it’s what I consider to be a perfect night at the theater – engaging, though provoking, and cathartic.

If you like “nasty” women as much as I do, go to Vday.org to find a local production of The Vagina Monologues and to learn more about the local organizations your money will be supporting. If you’re “Out in the Valley,” there are upcoming productions at Shepherd University in West Virginia, Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, Shenandoah University in Virginia, and a community production in Cumberland. Dates, times, and beneficiaries for each event are available at Vday.org under the “Find a local event” tab.

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