My Journey to Becoming a Vagina Warrior by Kristina Mitchell
I was in Morocco, sitting at a rooftop café overlooking the bustling center of Marrakech square. It was September of 2001, just a few weeks after the horrifying attacks back home. I was sipping an Arabic coffee with my new Moroccan friend, a lovely girl my age named Naja. There were a million things running through my mind about the safety of my friends and family back home, and about the state of relationship between us and the mid-east, where I was to be for the next six months. Naja and I sat and chatted and sipped our coffee overlooking snake charmers and monkeys and sparkling slipper shoes when suddenly she asked me a question that really shocked me. Naja said, “You’re American, so you can have sex with anyone you want?” The question really threw me. I wasn’t really sure how to respond. “I guess so, technically...I mean as long as we both want to.” I replied awkwardly. The question really threw me. It wasn’t really something that I’d ever thought about. It struck a chord, and that question still resonates in me today. Here I was, sitting half way across the world, having coffee with another girl, who in all other aspects, was just like me: in her last year of college, in modern clothing, planning for a career. However, there was a massive difference in our seemingly very similar lives. That rift was sexual freedom. At that time, in Morocco, it was a general rule that women were to remain virgins until they were married. There was a “sheet ceremony” where the groom would show the sheet to the awaiting family and friends after the couple had consummated their relationship in order to prove his bride’s virginity. Up until just last year in Morocco, the laws were such that if a girl or woman was raped and pressed charges, the rapist could get out of sentencing by marrying his victim. The woman had no choice in this, it was just the man’s get out of jail free card. So here were were, two new friends with so much in common, living with massively different freedoms. It wasn’t that I hadn’t thought about different freedoms in the broad sense, I had, that’s why I was there. But this one question sparked a journey for me. A journey to demand freedom and safety for women.
During my studies there, we had a fall break. I decided to travel to London on the break and meet my mom. We had a week filled with theatre and crumpets. It just so happened, that my birthday fell over that break. On my birthday, a good friend suggested that we go see “The Vagina Monologues” which was playing in the West End. I had heard of the play, but didn’t know what at all to expect. My mom, always being the good sport, said “sure, why not” and off we went. The first thing that struck me about the show was how funny it was. We were laughing hysterically and having such a good time! The show took me in to these women’s stories, their truths, their sufferings and their triumphs. Then, something really special happened. The last monologue in the show was about childbirth. In the piece, Eve Ensler describes in vivid detail watching her granddaughter being born. I looked over at my mom, who’s eyes were welling up with tears. She put her arm around me and whispered in my ear, “22 years ago today.” I can’t explain how beautiful that one moment in my life was and how it influenced my connection with women. My mom went through all of that unimaginable pain, and she could look at me with her eyes filled with love and smile. I got it. I hadn’t ever processed what a big deal it is, but birth and motherhood are a BIG deal!!! It’s what connects us all, we all come from a woman’s body who grew us there and loved us and fed us and suffered to give us life. Why is this not more celebrated? As the monologue says, “We forget the vagina. All of us. What else would explain our lack of awe? Our lack of reverence?”
This series of events gave birth to my journey as a vagina warrior. I was inspired by Naja to realize and have gratitude for my personal freedom, and I wanted to fight for other women’s freedom. I was also moved by the strong connection I felt to my mom, to womanhood, to the earth. That spring, I went back to college in Minnesota, and chose to direct “The Vagina Monologues” as my senior directing project. Since then, I’ve tried to see every production I can, I acted in it in London, and this year marks the fourth consecutive year that I will direct, produce and act in here in Los Angeles.
My vagina journey has brought me so many gifts. A voice to help end violence. It’s empowered me. It’s gotten me involved in many wonderful non-profits. But most of all, it’s connected me with amazing women from around the world.
The first year I directed the play here in LA, we had a very eye opening rehearsal. At the time, there was a horrible email going around the USC campus about how “no” means “yes”, and if a girl is passed out, it’s not rape, etc. We were discussing this disgusting email, and one by one, a lot of the cast members started opening up about their own experience with violence. Date rape. Beating. Verbal abuse. Incest. It’s happening everywhere. It’s happened to me. It may have happened to you. It happens to one in three women on the planet. People are polluting and poisoning and torturing the very temple where they were created. It is time for the violence to STOP. It’s time to honor, respect and pay homage to our birthplace, our hometown. And this is what becoming a Vagina Warrior is all about.
During V-Season which starts on Feb 14 and goes through the end of April, more than 5,000 productions of “The Vagina Monologues” take place across the globe all with one focus. To help their local anti-violence charities. Wherever you are in the world, I encourage you to attend every production you can. You all always hear and experience something new, you’ll always laugh, and most importantly, you’ll not only be supporting V-Day and the beneficiary of the performances, you’ll be supporting the creativity and brevity of the women who are raising their voices to help those who cannot.