So as I was reading through Jessica Zellers's stellar Women's Nonfiction: A Guide to Reading Interests, I found her annotation for Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, and thought, hey, I've never read The Vagina Monologues, and I probably should.
This will probably come as no surprise, but I was decidedly meh about The Vagina Monologues. It was interesting enough to read, and quite short (which I always enjoy), and the edition I read was published in support of Ensler's V-Day organization (which campaigns against violence against women), so I can support that. And I know the idea was to take a closer look at, and reclaim, the vagina, and I totally enjoyed this tidbit, in Ensler's introduction:
"In the first place, it's not so easy even to find your vagina. Women go weeks, months, sometimes years without looking at it. I interviewed a high-powered businesswoman who told me she was too busy; she didn't have the time. Looking at your vagina, she said, is a full day's work. You have to get down there on your back in front of a mirror that's standing on its own, full-length preferred. You've got to get in the perfect position, with the perfect light, which then is shadowed somehow by the mirror and the angle you're at. You get all twisted up. You're arching your head up, klling your back. You're exhausted by then. She said she didn't have the time for that. She was busy."
I enjoyed that, quite a bit. But I've always felt that reducing gender to genitalia was a bit misleading, myself, so although I don't think this was a bad read and it might be interesting for all women (it only takes an hour or so to read), it wasn't really for me. If I had to put my finger on gender, actually, I've always thought it rather boils down more to a quality of practicality, or helpfulness. One of my favorite things about women is how they often wade right in without asking; when Mr. CR comes in the kitchen, he will sometimes ask what needs doing (which I do appreciate), whereas when women come into my kitchen, they'll usually assess what needs doing and start opening cupboards and drawers until they find the tools to help.* I have felt this way for a very long time; when I got my first off-the-farm job, at 16, I worked as a busperson in a nice restaurant, and my female co-worker and I heard this from our boss (a no-nonsense woman herself) on a nightly basis: "Would you help David and John in section 3? Boy busers are so clueless. Thanks."
So: I will add Eve's "vagina power" thoughts to my conception of women as helpful, and practical. It's never a bad idea to expand one's horizons, after all.
*I am, of course, stereotyping like crazy. I have in fact known both helpful men and completely helpless women.