The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Monologues’ Distinct But Biased

Adriana Pratt | Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Do not read this article if you don’t want to see the word “vagina,” think about what a vagina is, or hear examples of the very personal testimonies that form “The Vagina Monologues.” However, if you’re someone with a curious and open mind to all things controversial, then read on because after all, according to Eve Ensler, “Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas.” It is this desire to spill the beans that led to the formation of “The Vagina Monologues,” one of the most stirring compilations of human stories ever created. Clearly Ensler was right because it was with the help of over 200 women that she was able to create and garner support for a revolutionary narration on the inner and outer workings of the vagina and the stories surrounding a women’s most private part. These stories have consequently sparked thousands of performances of Ensler’s play worldwide, the creation of “V-Day” – a global movement determined to end violence against women and girls (especially relevant now as Afghanistan recently legalized a man’s right to rape his wife), and on top of it all, loads of controversy. To make public the sometimes beautiful and often painful tales of humanity’s appreciation or their abhorrent disrespect for vaginas, Ensler interviewed hundreds of women and compiled their stories into a singular piece. Creating awareness about the beauty, uniqueness and necessity of respect for the female body is in and of itself a laud worthy accomplishment. However, certain stories in “The Vagina Monologues” appear to promote the perversion (though she would deem it the exploration) of this beautiful life-bringing vessel and seemed to detract from Ensler’s overall goal to appreciate and respect the female body.”The Vagina Monologues” is a quick and entertaining read, something that can be finished in an hour or two. But before you begin make sure you are mentally prepared to surrender yourself to the testimonies put forth. The only way to truly recognize the importance and heaviness of the matters discussed is to go in with an open mind and then logically deduce if the details of the numerous recollections coincide with the overall purpose of the play. The simplicity and straight-forwardness of the narration allows readers to capitalize on the moment and really experience the raw tales told in sometimes sparse, sometimes gruesome detail. Setting out to explore the different names we have used to label our sometimes furry and other times naked friend, Ensler begins her recollection of various women’s tales in a humorous and light-hearted way, but the tone almost immediately changes with the first story. Writing about a common issue for most women, Ensler wastes no time diving into the topic of hair. Yes, that detail of the female anatomy that many like to forget, ignore, or wish away. Recounting the heartbreaking story of a woman who tried to appease her husband by suiting his preferences only to continue to be cheated on in the end, Ensler frames the succession of narratives that follow. Often in dry, emotionless, and simple tones she lays out the facts, allowing the reader to digest them in full. Stories of humiliation, overly-ambitious appreciation, and curious fascination fill the pages of “The Vagina Monologues.” Still nothing leaves an impression like the tale from a Bosnian woman refugee who was finally saved from a rape camp. The utter sense of destruction to the woman’s sense of femininity both physically and emotionally was captured in such perfectly clear metaphors that it is impossible not to want to cry. Ensler does an amazing job capturing the many experiences women have with their personal sexuality. However an alternative perspective does not balance the glorification of masturbation and homosexuality the book provides. This piece does not include the story of someone who chose to wait to have sex until she was married, how a nun views her vagina and female sexuality (how interesting would that be to hear?), or a view of the vagina from a masculine point of view. If these perspectives were added to the mix Ensler selected, the piece would be more complete. “The Vagina Monologues” is a complex and varied look at female sexuality. It serves as an inspiring call to action for both men and women, pushing them to acknowledge societal atrocities such as the raping of women and incest, and simultaneously pursues a respect for human dignity. With a few additions and a more diverse representation of the many ways men and women view their sexuality, “The Vagina Monologues” could be taken to the next level, serving as a dialogue between all men and women of the world.