Eve Ensler is a feminist and dramatist who wrote The Vagina Monologues as a play consisting of a number of pieces where the actors speak directly to the audience. The play, which was first performed in the 1990s, consisted of words first spoken by people that the author interviewed about their feelings about their vagina. In the play the speakers use vagina to refer to a number of sexual organs including the labia. The intention of the play is to reveal what women think about their more intimate body parts but also what they have been made to think about them by popular culture, gender based violence and their own feelings of inadequacy.
At the time when it was first performed The Vagina Monologues was a revolutionary piece of drama and it was very moving for a lot of women to hear their own thoughts echoed in the play. This drama said things which had not ever been said on stage before and it opened up more public debate about what being a woman meant. Eventually the play was performed in colleges and universities across the USA and large amounts of money was raised for charities working with women who had been sexually or physically abused.
I saw the play about twenty years ago in Sheffield and also found it moving. The copy that I have of the text was bought at that time although I have to say that I have not read it since and only reopened it to have an unusual body part for the first of February’s blogs. It is equally moving even though I am older and society has opened up more about sexual issues.
The Good Body is the author’s next dramatic piece which has been constructed in much the same way. It arises from the view society reflects its oppression of women by how it relates to their body. The author starts the piece by talking about her relationship with her belly and with weight. She makes herself unhappy because of her weight and punishes herself by dieting. Other pieces included talk about plastic surgery, piercings and large thighs. There are a lot of issues here but they are presented in such a way that you will recognise them and also be able to smile as well as wince.
The power in this writing is that it comes from the words of ordinary women from different backgrounds and with different experiences. These dramatic pieces are well worth reading – they will stay with you.