На крајот, тие издржуваат, тие преживуваат, тие ја споделуваат гордоста од можноста да ја покажуваат женственоста заедно си сите жени, во еден заеднички глас.
I like to think I became a feminist in kindergarten. At age 5, I wasn’t so concerned with the wage gap and didn’t yet understand the meaning of reproductive rights, but I LOVED the Ninja Turtles.
I went to a small school and I was the only girl in my class, but having grown up with two brothers, I was accustomed to hanging with the guys. Nerf guns. Super soakers. Basketball. Jumping off the roof. Manhunt. Firecrackers. I was always game.
Michaelangelo was my favorite. (He and I both loved pizza.) So when it was time to play Turtles on the playground, I claimed my favorite character. But the boys said no.
“You can’t be a turtle. You’re a girl.”
My role was always predetermined that year: April.
Since kindergarten, I’ve come a long way in standing up for my inner Ninja Turtle and finding my voice. It’s part of the reason I got involved in The Vagina Monologues back in the states and why I love working with the young women’s leadership camp here (GLOW).
My worlds all collided Saturday night. I was honored to be part of an incredible ensemble of Macedonian women performing the Monologues in Skopje. It was our second performance of the year, after some untimely delays. (Political protests earlier this year meant travel bans and restrictions for PCVs.)
If you’ve never seen them live or heard of them, they are a beautiful, powerful, collection of stories from hundreds of women, synthesized by Eve Ensler, and shared each year in performances around the world. They celebrate women. They celebrate our bodies, and they give voice to subjects often left untouched. The proceeds from our performances in Skopje benefited three women who are survivors of domestic abuse. The proceeds around the world go toward stopping violence toward women.
The monologues are always powerful, but there was something really special about performing in another language, and in a place where prescribed gender roles often rule the land. I felt the emotion of some of the monologues that I never felt while performing them in America.
Unlike in America, where I was reading words from a page, here I was studying words and syllables; practicing syntax and emphasis. And more, our (amazing) director challenged each of us to look deeper than the page at our characters. How does she feel? How did she find herself here? What does she want next?
The experience was heavy on practicing unfamiliar six- and seven-syllable words in a foreign tongue, but also heavy on connecting with some of the best women Macedonia has to offer, the ones who speak up and speak out and believe in art and expression and the power and equality of women.
I was one of three PCVs involved, and it happened almost by accident. A friend had gotten involved, hoping to help expand the core group of Macedonian women who had participated in years past and energize the group for future years. I said if she needed any help, to call me. And she did.
One of my dearest Macedonian friends joined the cast as a result and another wants to be a part of the ensemble next year, after watching the performance with her mom. Connecting women. It’s a beautiful thing. 🙂
My monologue was the first solo piece of the evening, so I had the advantage of relaxing while I took in the rest of the show. (Rather than half listening as I practiced some of the tricky words. Zadovoluvala. Zadovoluvala. Zadovoluvala.) I celebrated the anthem of “My Short Skirt.” I laughed at “Six-Year-Old Girl.” I was moved by the presentation of “My Vagina Was My Village,” a monologue based on the tens of thousands of women in Kosovo and Bosnia raped during the war in Yugoslavia, and the added impact of hearing it in a former Yugolsav nation.
I am so proud of each woman who shared her voice. This year, one of the monologues featured shared the struggle of transgender women. It gave me chills to hear it, in a place where the LGBT scene is still very underground. Even more so now, reflecting in the wake of such a hateful act in my home country.
Whatever you believe; whoever you are, we’re all just people after all.
That’s one of the biggest takeaways of the Monologues for me. We come from all walks of life, all experiences, all beliefs, all shapes and sizes — all different favorite Ninja Turtles, but we are all incredible women.
In the end, they endure, they survive, and they share in the pride of expressing femininity with all women, in one voice united.