Friday, 21 March 2014

Awakenings, Resonances, & Towards Healing

Why do passages like these in Ensler's Vagina Monologues make me well up with emotion?

"It was better than the Grand Canyon, ancient and full of grace" (46).

"There was a choral thing that began to occur, a kind of wild collective song" (33).

"And Bob lost himself there and I was there with him, in my vagina, and we were gone" (57).

"My vagina swimming river water, clean spilling water over sun-baked stones over stone clit, clit stones over and over" (62).

"I began to feel beautiful and delicious" (57).

"I had awakened to what the woman who ran the workshop called 'vaginal wonder'" (46).

"You know, actually, you're the first person I ever talked to about this, and I feel a little better" (30).

Perhaps it's because Ensler affirms our experiences of shame and simultaneously, in this play, awakens the possibilities of our self- and collective love.

Just when we're feeling devastated, incensed, and deeply empathic for the women in the play and their stories, Ensler shares messages of healing.

I've heard lots of people dismiss this play--as a work of literature, as a piece of art--on various grounds. Some say Ensler is an "ugly feminist." Others say her writing has "no literary merit." (ETC.) Yet I've seen and read this play now close to a dozen times, and its form and content both move me again and again.

Ensler finds a way of sharing hundreds of voices, stories, and experiences in this work, and the pluralism of her approach means that the play refuses to be about one thing, one voice, or one narrative. For this reason alone, the wondrous inclusiveness of this play makes it worth our time and thoughtful attention.

Furthermore, Ensler moves in and out of voices across time and place, age and background, as well as kinds of experiences with sex, sexuality, and sexual violence. The effect of this is for the play to become everyone's play, for it to belong to everyone.

Maybe you're reading this and don't know the play. (Maybe you're thinking, WTF? Who knows.) Reading this handful of lines out of the play's whole context won't do it justice. I urge you: buy a ticket to the show in a city or on a university campus near you. Buy a copy of the play. Check out scenes or the script online. Check out Ensler's TED talks.

At least for me, over quite a few years and encounters, this play is worth our careful attention.

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