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V power, nothing to do with obscenity

By Zhang Yiqian  (Global Times)

13:10, January 18, 2013

The evocative poster for the sold-out play (GT/Photo: Courtesy of Women's Voice)

About 10 people gathered at the Beijing LGBT center on a Wednesday night. The lights were dim and one person sat on a stool in the center of a mat that served as a stage.

A tape recorder played in the background as the actress read a newspaper. A reporter's voice from the recorder read a piece of news about how masturbation is treated differently for men and women. The actress flipped through the newspaper angrily and crumpled it up just as the voice stopped.

She stood abruptly. "My vagina is angry," she said.

This vignette, titled "The angry vagina," is one of the scenes from The Ways of the Vagina, which will be performed Saturday. The Women's Voice, a feminist nonprofit based in Beijing, and the Beijing LGBT Center are collaborating on the play, which includes five scenes translated from the original The Vagina Monologues and four new scenes created by the group.

The volunteers say they are trying to raise awareness about women's rights. The subject of vaginas is very taboo in China. For example, word is banned on Weibo.

Ji Hang, organizer of the play and a member of Women's Voice, said since the original Vagina Monologues is about women's rights and against psychological violence to women, Women's Voice has always been interested in staging it.

"Performing the play is a way to publicize women's rights and that's why we've always wanted to do it," she said.

The four orignally-penned scenes in the play are "First Night," "Masturbating Class," "Sexual Abuse" and "Moaning." Ji said the group of nine voted for the topics they were most interested in and discussed them at length over the two-month workshopping period. Everybody shared opinions and personal stories on the topics and the writers created scenes based on their own stories.

They created these scenes to add a localized flavor for the Chinese audience, Ji said.

"Since these stories are the members' stories, we feel they are very Chinese. One of the four stories is about the hymen, another one about a lesbian's experience and 'Sexual Abuse' is about rape by someone you know," she said.

Program director of the center, Xin Ying, said even though the center focuses more on LGBT rights, the members agree with what Women's Voice is trying to say in terms of women's rights.

"The play generates thoughtful discussion about certain topics, such as why the word 'vagina' cannot be used," she said. "It's also a self-discovery and exploration process for women."

Ji said China is still not that open about discussing sex publicly. "The word 'vagina' isn't spoken out loud, isn't be seen, and it makes people feel embarrassed," she said. "That's why I feel that doing this is meaningful. I'd love to know what the audience thinks."

The play will be performed this Saturday to a full house and a few more times after the Spring Festival, mostly in bars and schools, Ji said.

The Vagina Monologues came to Beijing before in 2009. Theater director Wang Chong obtained the copyright to the original play and translated it. The play had 13 showings in Beijing and Shanghai, all completely sold out.

Xin was previoulsy part of a Wuhan, Hubei Province, grassroots performance of The Vagina Monologues in 2009. She is optimistic about the play paving the way for more discussion of women's rights and anatomy in China.

"The public actually has a high opinion of the show. Officially, it may not be highly recognized because 'vagina' is a sensitive word. But at least the public, especially the young, feel that the play has a strong impact, especially a visual impact," she said.

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