The Vagina Dialogue

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Speaking of your father, in the book you write that you've come to terms with the sexual and physical abuse you suffered in his hands.

There has been a reckoning. What happened with my father happened — and it's done. I'm done. It's over. I've left my father's house. For the first 50 years of my life, I was in that house. But this is my life now and I feel like I've been able to regain the parts of my father that I loved. He was ferocious about honesty, he had a ferocious integrity around money and he was openminded to all religions. These are good things and I'm grateful for them.

Six years ago, you were part of Hillary Clinton's exploratory committee in her run for the Senate. Have you been satisfied with her track record?

No, I've been very disappointed. It's about the war. I feel very strongly that anybody who represents me has to be fierce in questioning authority. Hillary — and so many people in the Senate — did not look at the grounds for the war in Iraq in an effective or thorough way. As a matter of fact, she supported it. I can't get behind that. Right now I'm looking for younger women at the grassroots level who I can help develop and support as they become leaders, people who are coming from a place where they're fighting for justice, peace and equality, not for political position and power.

The Vagina Monologues is, by far, your most successful play. Do you ever feel that it overshadows your other work?

Everything about The Vagina Monologues has been such a glorious experience. I'm constantly moved by how many girls come up to me and tell me that it was the play that awakened their consciousness.

Why was it so important to you to make the word "vagina" part everyday discourse?

I could have picked the word "vulva," but it seemed much more difficult. (Laughs.) I believe in the power of language. When I was a child, my father called me a slut all the time. I came to believe that and went out in the world and behaved like that. When I started doing The Vagina Monologues, I realized how impossible it was for women to say the word. I would see the disgust, the shame, the embarrassment. The vagina is smack in the center of our bodies, yet it is a place that most women felt ashamed of talking about. What did that say about the center of our beings? There's something in the uttering of the word that reattaches you to it. It's empowering. Now I turn on the television and I see vagina being used everywhere.

Conservative author Christina Hoff Sommer once said that The Vagina Monologues has inspired "an army" of campus feminists who are "very elitist." Care to respond?

I think it's funny when she says that. There are 600 to 800 college campuses involved in The Vagina Monologues. It is in schools like Southern Methodist University, in community colleges in Tennessee and in African-American schools. It has also spread to 81 countries. It has been performed in villages in Africa and backwater towns in the Philippines. I once saw a production at Riker's Island! So, if she wants to call it elitist, okay.

The Vagina Monologues asked the question: "If your vagina could talk, what would it say?" What's your vagina saying these days? Live in the ambiguity. Live in the mystery. Everyone's invited.

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