Book Review: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler


The Vagina Monologues

Author: Eve Ensler
Publisher: Virago Press Ltd.
Publication Date: 2001
Format: Paperback
Length: 185 pages
ISBN: 9781860499260
Genre: Nonfiction, Plays, Drama, Theatre, Feminism

Mary’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Copy from my local library

Synopsis

I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues…At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before.

From Goodreads.

Review

I’m writing this review the day after the new President of the United States was sworn in the women around the world march. And, my, what a time to be alive. Now, I can go on a rant about the state of our country, its new leadership, and the millions of people who put the United States in this position, but I won’t. Because it won’t change our present. What we can do to move forward with our new reality is by educating ourselves and standing up for our beliefs in a constructive way.

With that being said, I picked up The Vagina Monologues because it was the Our Shared Shelf book of the month(s) for January/February 2017.

I had heard about The Vagina Monologues when I was in college, although I didn’t understand what it was. I remember girls—women—students—standing on the main Quad passing out vagina lollipops and holding signs and shouting about vaginas.

Was it a protest? Was it a cult? I know I sound really sheltered saying that—this was almost 10 years ago and 14 years of private school education can do that to you—but I had no idea what was going on and I shied away from these people. I walked around them. I took an alternative route.

Why did I do that?

After reading The Vagina Monologues, I realize it was more than just vagina lollipops. This was about empowering women to love themselves and understand their bodies, while also educating men about the struggle we face as women.

Eve Ensler wrote in the introduction that, in part, The Vagina Monologues—more accurately, V-Day—was created to assist with stopping violence toward women. “When you rape, beat, main, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women,” she wrote, “you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.” (p. xxxii)

YES.

How dare a woman’s body be used against her. How dare she not feel safe in her own skin.

Eve finishes the introduction with a quote (italics hers): “In order for the human race to continue, women must be safe and empowered.” (p. xxxvi)

And as of today (again, I’m writing this the day of the Women’s March), women took one large step to securing their safety and empowerment.

I am proud to know many women and men who stood up for their beliefs.

I think what most people forget when reading The Vagina Monologues is that it’s a play. As much as I want to read this as a set of essays, that’s not what this is. It’s in the title—they’re a collection of monologues, with some sections introduced by the narrator (Eve). And while the book’s introduction section stated that Eve usually sits on the stage with a set of 5×8 cards, though she never uses them, and performs each monologue, this production, from my understanding, is best done with a cast of women performing each monologue.

My favorite monologues were “The Flood,” a few of the “Vagina Fact” sections (the genital mutilation section was eye opening, as was the one about clitoridectomy for curing female masturbation), and “The Little Coochi Snorcher that Could.” Besides the “Vagina Facts,” which were usually snippets from news articles or encyclopedia entries, “The Flood” and “The Little Coochi Snorcher” reflected on these women’s experiences with their vaginas, being ashamed for saying the word or being made to think her genitals were “a very bad place” and how they overcame (or didn’t overcome) these beliefs.

It helps to remember these aren’t verbatim interviews but monologues that interpret these women’s stories. What would help even more is to witness these performances, to hear the emotion in these women’s stories to truly understand.

Looking back on my college years, I wish I wasn’t so put off by seeing signs with “vagina” written on them. I wish I had the opportunity to see The Vagina Monologues performed.

But wait! I might still be able to! V-Day is celebrated on (surprise!) Valentine’s Day, and the idea behind it was to raise money and bring awareness to stop violence against women.

“Since the first step to eradication a society problem is making people aware that it exists, the V-Day Benefit committee decided that the goal for 1999 would be to get our message out at the local level. We came up with the idea for the V-Day College Initiative.” ~Karen Obel, Director, V-Day College Initiative.

Colleges and communities around the United States will be performing The Vagina Monologues on their campuses and community centers during the month of February. Please believe me when I say this post isn’t sponsored, but I highly recommend looking for an event near you. I know I will!

Without women, none of us would be here, and women must be heard and respected as any other human.

“Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak feely — and the right to be heard.” Hillary Clinton, U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women; Beijing.

More Info:
Eve Ensler’s website: http://www.eveensler.org/plays/the-vagina-monologues/
V-Day.org: http://www.vday.org/about/why-vday-started.html
The Vagina Monologue performances: http://vspot.vday.org/vday/events

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