A friend emailed me a couple months ago and asked if I would participate in a revamped version of Eve Ensler’s the Vagina Monologues that she planned on hosting.
She had a folder of Ensler’s monologues from the original play and some additional pieces written by black poet Ebony Stewart and by various Latina women. My friend asked if I was interested in selecting some poems regarding womanhood and my ethnic background (Chinese-American) that I could perform at this intersectional-ized Vagina Monologues.
Sure. I have a vagina. I’m Chinese-American. Why not.
I wheeled into a restroom before one We Are Women read-through because stage fright likes to liquefy and spill into my bladder. The sign on the door—yes, an inanimate object —told me that I must identify as a “woman” in order to pee sitting down. Having a vaginal canal around which I urinate means I have to be a woman according to this know-it-all bathroom sign.
As I returned from the patronizing bathroom to the read-through, to find a few of my peers reciting Ensler’s monologues and other poems about vaginas and the majesty of the birth canal and its need for pampering and feather massages, I again felt that the presence of my vagina determined my womanhood.
The concluding sentence of one poem—a spiel about a woman’s rich and complicated relationship with her vagina—read, “But that’s silly. A vagina is just a vagina.”
Finally. One statement that matched my own relationship with my vagina.
It wasn’t just my flat nose and heavy-lidded eyes that distinguished me from other women in feminist discourses like these.
It was my relationship, or lack thereof, with my vagina. My vagina really was just a vagina to me.
Watching scenes in films where women delightfully stick fingers or penises between their legs delighted me about as much as watching digested, slimy food moving through intestines. Learning about the sickening commonness of sexual assault baffled me and made me assume that the men who raped women were simply brainless. What’s so absolutely biologically necessary about pulling apart a vagina, of all things? It’s slimy, smelly, and probably covered in pee. Pull apart a wine bottle or a book cover or a laptop with Netflix open on the browser (and actually watch Netflix and actually chill).
I never cared much for my vagina. It defines me as much as intestines and belly button and pinky toes define me. Between my legs lies not a magical fortress that only the people I love most dearly can enter, but just another body part. A vagina to me is a wrinkly muscle covered in wiry hair, residual urine, and sometimes bloody uterine lining goop. Why some lovers like to touch body parts I think are best fit for urinating or defecating, I don’t understand.
I guess the term for this indifference is asexuality.
When it was my turn to read the poem I selected, I stopped at a certain line—I didn’t want to read sentiments that are sexual when I am not sexual. My friend, the host, said that was fine.
More read-throughs and rehearsals unfolded, and I edited out more lines about fucking and replaced them with lines about giving absolutely no fucks at all. I added lines from a short poem called “Dolly Rage,” about Chinese-American women not being faceless china dolls, in addition to some lines of my own, demanding justice for the women who were silenced, told their eyes were too small, and forced to bury their child in a country that does not typically seek justice for victims of color.
The rest of the poem emphasized that white men were not Asian-American women’s white knights. Instead of white knights (or any kind of knight), I lusted for the totally sexy allure of justice and freedom for the model minority that has been molded and pressed and broken apart like Model Magic dough.
I anticipated backlash. How would the other women react to my version of the poem? Would they read me as that awkward mom who places a folder over the TV screen when her kids accidentally come across sex scenes while flipping through channels? Would my peers read this as censoring a too-often shamed element of many Asian-American women—their sexuality?
Despite these worries, I was certain of my edits. I had no sexuality to censor in the first place, and I had none to draw inspiration from in reading the lines about freaking men of all races.
I was pleasantly surprised by the response from my fellow performers and our audience members. Never once did anyone inquire in any disapproving way about why I had edited out the poet’s original lines to replace them with my own. The women supported me. These women, whose own stage presences and performances were strong and bold, told me, the old-lady-asexual-whatever, that my performance was strong and bold. The same applause occurred when we performed We Are Women for the public, and the applause and praise that soundtracked our synchronized bows applauded and praised all of the women on stage. Myself included.
Now I’m developing a newfound admiration for the phrase “giving zero fucks” with which many badass feminists have described other badass feminists.
But to me, this phrase holds special meaning. It proves that asexuality—literally giving zero fucks—can and does coexist with shameless, unapologetic womanhood.
Asexual women are women. Asexual women of color are women. Women without intimate relationships with their vaginas (or any vaginas at all) are women, and we’re not frigid or immature. We’re badass women and we give absolutely zero fucks about the ways in which the patriarchy and white feminism have misconstrued asexuality.
Amy is pursuing degrees in the liberal arts and thrives on opportunities to contribute to education and social justice. A Chinese-American Texan from Austin, she loves quirky art, slam poetry, local cafes, tea and cats.