Sing It, Sister? An Eve Ensler Comparison

Published on March 30th, 2011 in: Back Off Man I'm A Feminist, Books, Feminism, Issues, Teh Sex |

By Maureen

eve ensler

I first read The Vagina Monologues when I was in late adolescence and thought it was brilliant. Eve Ensler’s collection of stories and vignettes made me proud to have a vagina and to know that other women had similar experiences with menstruation, first-time tampon use, annoyance at “feminine itch” commercials, and so much more. I saw a performance of the Monologues at my college during which not only did my recently discovered distant cousin perform a monologue, but one of the professors at my university also simulated a rollicking orgasm.

As a young person just discovering ideas of sexuality and feminism, I was in such awe of Ms. Ensler ad her ability to ask the uncomfortable questions, publish the painful stories, and organize a foundation to help women who don’t have opportunities to be as bold as those of us who don’t live in fear of being stoned to death for mentioning sex or showing skin.

I took a break from following Ms. Ensler’s career and work, and then came face to face with it again my last semester in graduate school. I was taking a class on domestic violence and my professor showed us a documentary of V-Day celebrations all around the world. It included some of Ms. Ensler’s humanitarian efforts with women, such as opening a refugee center for Kenyan girls fleeing from the threat of female genital mutilation. I was just as awed and moved, but this time, I was coming from a different perspective.

Shortly after graduation I re-read the entire Monologues again. I find them touching, funny, inspiring, and entertaining. They make me feel glad to be a woman living in not only in this generation, but also in this part of the world, as well as this part of the country (New York). I wish that every woman I’ve ever met who has confessed to having unsatisfying sex for fear of asking for what is pleasurable, or who is mystified by a tampon because she was told it was only for married women (both actual experiences I’ve had) could read this book or see a performance of it and gain some insight and understanding into the complexity of the vagina.

I was on such a woman-power high that I managed to snake a copy of Ms. Ensler’s other major work, The Good Body, shortly after my renewed love of the Monologues. My reaction to this book was not as positive as it was to its predecessor. To me, The Good Body seems more about Ms. Ensler looking for personal validation and less about her attempts to find a common thread among women in the one thing we inevitably all have in common.

On the surface The Good Body has a similar premise to The Vagina Monologues: Bridging cultural, age, and global differences to discuss issues of body image facing women. These “issues,” however, are ones that Ms. Ensler has dealt with personally (feeling that her stomach is flabby and unattractive), and that sets the tone for her interactions with the women featured, as well as her writing style. I also have a belief that my stomach is not as flat or as toned as it “could” be, but I didn’t feel that The Good Body related to me or reached out to me as a woman or a reader in any way. Ms. Ensler appeared to be searching for validation all around the globe, which I guess is nice validation if one can get it.

It’s possible that my position in life now as a modern young woman who has developed not only my only preferences and opinions, but also learned about the oppression and suffering of women (as well as every other marginalized group) all over the world has colored my reactions to each of Ms. Ensler’s works. It’s also possible that she just got an inflated ego after the global outpouring of support for her risk-taking earlier work and decided to do a more personalized variation on the same theme.

None of which is to say that Ms. Ensler’s humanitarian work and outreach of awareness of violence against women is or should be in any way diminished by her “all-about-me” style in The Good Body. On the contrary, it’s quite possibly the most important thing we can raise awareness about, even in this modern age. I just hope Ms. Ensler stops worrying about her tummy long enough to remember as much.

For more on V-Day, please visit the V-Day website.

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