Hendry: No time in this world for shame

As I See It

There’s an old saying in the industry: You just can’t please everyone.

While we’re used to that over here in the newsroom, sometimes something comes up that just needs to be addressed.

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A reader called us this week to let us know how embarrassed she was that we ran “smut” in the paper.

Smut? What smut?

She was referring to our photos of The Vagina Monologues.

Oh, that “smut.” Yeah, that was me. I took those photos and did up that page.

Now, I get it. Way back when, you just didn’t talk about things like the private areas of the body. Or certain health issues. Or family issues. Or anything, really.

Oddly enough, that’s the topic of one of the monologues in the show. Women don’t discuss their “down theres” and you just act like they don’t exist.

I just don’t agree with that. Vaginas exist, and we really should acknowledge that.

Blood comes flowing from them once a month for 30-odd years, it’s how many of us come into the world and half the world’s population has one. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

Yes, the kids that deliver AHN could see those photos if they bothered to unfold the paper before delivering it. However, they can see graphic depictions of actual vaginas (as opposed to metaphorical ones) at any time on the Internet, so I don’t really see how or why that’s a big deal.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard such comments about The Vagina Monologues. I’ve heard it referred to as smut and trash and whatnot. Granted, most of the negative talk comes from people who have never actually seen the show and assume because the word “vagina” is in the title that it’s basically pornography.

Do you really think there would be live pornography on the stage of the North Peace Cultural Centre? Seriously? Of course not.

For anyone not aware, The Vagina Monologuesaddress issues that women face, up to and including love, sex, violence, rape, consent, sexual orientation and so on. The goal of the production is to raise funds for groups dedicated to ending violence against women. Some of it is presented in a humourous light, while some of it is definitely not.

But honestly, it’s 2016. Surely people can talk about these issues without getting squicked out? We’re all adults here, mostly.

Here’s the big issue with not talking about our “down theres.” This mindset leads to a culture of shame — shame about our bodies, our feelings, and our thoughts.

I was told not long ago that shame prevents a person from ever experiencing true joy in life. I believe this to be true. Shame doesn’t encourage people to change bad habits or negative viewpoints — if anything it exacerbates the problem.

It’s not an easy thing to do, letting go of a shame you’ve been ingrained with your whole life. Heck, I’m still working on it myself. A little self-improvement can go a long way to a healthier, happier life.

So next year, when the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society puts on the monologues for its 11th year, go see it. It’s an important show for everyone — women and men — to see.

Who knows? You might learn something. And that’s never a bad thing.


Aleisha Hendry is a proud feminist writer who loves cold weather, her cats, roller skates and righteous indignation. She was a finalist at the 2014 BCYCNA Ma Murray Awards in the Columnist category and took home the silver. Follow her on Twitter at @aleishahendry.

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