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Vagina Monologues Poster

The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler which ran at the off-Broadway Westside Theatre after a limited run at HERE Arts Center in 1996. Ensler originally starred in the production; when she left the play it was recast with three celebrity monologists. The production has been staged internationally, and a television version featuring Ensler was produced by cable TV channel HBO. In 1998, Ensler and others, including Willa Shalit, a producer of the Westside Theatre production, launched V-Day, a global non profit that has raised over $50 million for women's anti-violence groups through benefits of The Vagina Monologues" [1]

Contents

Plot summary

The Vagina Monologues is made up of a varying number of monologues read by a varying number of women (initially, Eve Ensler performed every monologue herself, with subsequent performances featuring three actresses, and more recent versions featuring a different actress for every role). Every monologue somehow relates to the vagina, be it through sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the variety of names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body. A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality. Some monologues include:

  • I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me: a chorus describing many young women's and girls' first menstrual period.
  • My Angry Vagina, in which a woman humorously rants about injustices wrought against the vagina, such as tampons, douches, and the tools used by OB/GYNs
  • My Vagina Was My Village, a monologue compiled from the testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps.
  • The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could, in which a woman recalls memories of traumatic sexual experiences in her childhood and a self-described "positive healing" sexual experience in her adolescent years with an older woman. In the original version, she is 13, but later versions would change her age to 16. This particular skit has sparked numerous controversies and criticisms due to its content (see below).
  • Reclaiming Cunt, a piece narrated by a woman who illustrates that the word "cunt" itself is a lovely word despite its disconcerting connotations
  • The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy, in which a sex worker for women discusses the intriguing details of her career and her love of giving women pleasure. In several performances it often comes at the end of the play, literally climaxing with a vocal demonstration of a "triple orgasm."
  • Because He Liked to Look At It, in which a woman describes how she had thought her pubic area was ugly and had been embarrassed to even think about it, but changed her mind because of a sexual experience with a man named Bob who liked to spend hours looking at it.
  • I Was There In The Room, a monologue in which Eve Ensler describes the birth of her granddaughter.

Every year a new monologue is added to highlight a current issue affecting women around the world. The monologue is performed at thousands of local V-Day benefit productions of the play that take place annually in February and March raising funds for local groups, shelters, crisis centers working to end violence against women. In 2003, for example, Ensler wrote a new monologue about the plight of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule. This Monologue is known as "Under the Burqa."

History

Eve Ensler wrote the first draft of the monologues in 1996 (there have been several revisions since) following interviews she conducted with 200 women about their views on sex, relationships, and violence against women. The interviews began as casual conversations with her friends, who then brought up anecdotes they themselves had been told by other friends; this began a continuing chain of referrals. In an interview with women.com, Ensler said that her fascination with vaginas began because of "growing up in a violent society."[2]"Women's empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality." She also stated, "I'm obsessed with women being violated and raped, and with incest. All of these things are deeply connected to our vaginas."

Ensler wrote the piece to "celebrate the vagina." Ensler states that in 1998, the purpose of the piece changed from a celebration of vaginas and femininity to a movement to stop violence against women.

The play first opened at HERE Arts Center in New York City on 3 October 1996 with a limited run that ran through November. The play gained popularity through a word of mouth campaign that culminated with a performance at Madison Square Garden in 2001, which featured Melissa Etheridge and Whoopi Goldberg performing segments of the play.

The Vagina Monologues is performed annually to bring attention to V-Day in thousands of cities and colleges worldwide. The performances generally benefit rape crisis centers and similar resource centers for women.

The Vagina Monologues were also held in three Muslim countries deemed to be liberal enough to hold the performances. They were Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia.

V-Day

V-Day logo.

The Vagina Monologues is the cornerstone of the V-Day movement, whose participants stage benefit performances of the show and/or host other related events in their communities. Such events take place worldwide each year between February 1 and April 30.

On February 21, 2004, Eve Ensler in conjunction with Jane Fonda and Deep Stealth Productions produced and directed the first all-transgender performance of The Vagina Monologues, with readings by eighteen notable trans women, and including a new monologue documenting the experiences of transwomen. It debuted in connection with "LA V-DAY Until the Violence Stops" with monologues documenting the violence against transgender people. Since that debut, many university and college productions have included these three "Transgender Monologues".

The Vagina Monologues were also held in three Muslim countries deemed to be liberal enough to hold the performances. They were Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia.

Criticism of The Vagina Monologues

Feminist criticism

The Vagina Monologues has been criticized by a number of people in the pro-sex feminist, gender egalitarian, and individualist feminist movements. Harriet Lerner, renowned in the field of Women's Psychology, points out the "psychic genital mutilation" embedded in the play's title, which ignores the Clitoris and Labia, and should more accurately be called "The Vulva Monologues". Pro-sex feminist Betty Dodson, author of several books about female sexuality, saw the play as having a negative and restrictive view of sexuality and an anti-male bias.[3] She called the play "a blast of hatred at men and heterosexuality". Individualist feminist Wendy McElroy agreed, stating that the play "equates men with 'the enemy' and heterosexual love with violence".[4][5]

Elements of the play critics find contentious include:

  • the amount of attention given to brutal sexual encounters compared with consensual or harmonious sexual encounters;
  • negative portrayal of male-female sexual relationships;
  • In "The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could", an underage girl (thirteen in earlier performances, sixteen in the revised version) recounts being given alcohol and then having sex with an adult woman; the incident is recalled fondly by the grown girl.
  • the fact that Ensler interviewed girls as young as aged six, asking them intimate questions, such as what their vagina smells like.[6]

Colonialism and heterosexism

Kim Q. Hall further criticizes the play, particularly the sections dealing with women in the Third World, for contributing to "colonialist conceptions of non-Western women."[7] Although she supports frank discussions about sex, Hall rescales many of the same critiques leveled by feminists of color at White privilege among Second-wave feminists and "premature white feminist assumptions and celebrations of a global 'sisterhood.'"[7]

See also

References

External links

"Eve Ensler on "good" bodies and bad politics -Mother Jones [1]

Criticism

The television production








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