Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Vagina Monologues: Laugh, Weep, Change the World

Every time I read "The Vagina Monologues," I am moved by its plurality. Ensler doesn't take on one story but many stories. She doesn't speak with one voice but many voices. She doesn't speak to one of us but all of us. I think monologues, facts, notes, and dedications fragmented and juxtaposed make it possible to begin "to say the unsayable" and to demystify the language around women's bodies.

I am haunted by the end of Ensler's Introduction: "In order for the human race to continue, women must be safe and empowered" (xxxvi). Isn't that just it?

When I first read this play (before I'd seen it), I wasn't expecting violence. Sure, I was expecting raucous humor, shock value, words like "cunt" maybe, but I wasn't expecting violence. I hadn't yet made the connection between the fact that we don't talk about our "down-theres" and the shame and anguish and guilt that accompany the collective experience of women and girls around the world.

I love how, in spite of horrific violence and extraordinary pain, anything is possible in this play... even healing... even changing the world. Maybe it's because of the chalice--a vaginal symbol, so it's appropriate in more ways than one.


The chalice is open, collaborative, communicative, and plural (as opposed to its opposite and counterpart, the closed, individual, and linear blade). These are pagan symbols, representative of long-held notions of femininity and masculinity, yet I'm struck by how relevant they are to Ensler's piece.


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