|The vagina according to Eve
By Nina Louise Morrison
The word vagina appears 136 times in Eve Enslers The Vagina
Monologues. Any slang term imaginable is also mentioned with giggles and orgasmic moans to boot.
The show is about spreading the word. Its aim is to start a conversation about the
word by unabashedly breaching the taboo subjects of female sexuality, desire, abuse
and pleasure. The Monologues are as much political as they are theatrical.
Last weekend in the Sco, a group of Oberlin students brought the Monologues to Oberlin. They
are based on hundreds of interviews Ensler conducted and transformed into an act.
Ensler began performing them herself as a one-woman show in 1996. This expanded into a three-woman
show, which became a star-studded benefit event, and transformed into a global movement called
V-day. The V-day Until-the-Violence-Stops movement has been raising money to end violence
against women and girls for over five years.
Hovering somewhere between stand-up comedy and political commentary, The Vagina Monologues continue
to be performed at colleges and theaters across the country and around the world. For a few years
now, Oberlin College has been performing them annually to benefit the local Lorain County Rape
Why go to a benefit performance of The Vagina Monologues? To support local women? To be reminded
of womens issues globally? Yes and yes. But the assumption is also that it will be enjoyable.
Unfortunately, Enslers recent additions to The Vagina Monologues may have made them more
issue-heavy and less entertaining than they used to be.
The Vagina Monologues website claims the performances are a celebration. This is a
reasonable description of the original script, but Enslers new material focuses more on global
womens rights violations and less on the vagina. Her trips to visit the women of troubled
countries such as Bosnia and Afganistan and her continued interest in gathering the stories of
victims have led her to add darker, more didactic monologues. Some audience members this weekend
found them moving, revealing, upsetting or cathartic. Some found them too close to emotionally
manipulative political propaganda to be enjoyable.
In any event, all agree the new monologues are grimly serious. Isnt there a way to enlighten,
empower, and induce uncontrollable laughter all at the same time? The answer is, well, yes.
At least one actor this weekend proved that comedy benefits a benefit. First-year Diona Reasonover,
a powerful new talent at Oberlin, did not allow Enslers personal political mission to outshine
her performance. Her monologue about a smart sex worker who loves to make vaginas happy truly celebrated
vaginas and female sexuality.
By teaching, preaching, ad-libbing and unabashedly impersonating the diverse world of the orgasmic
moan, she whipped Ensler, audience and fellow actors into shape. She had the audience screaming,
yelling, clapping, blushing, hooting and raving with every line. Thus, each night, another room
full of people was empowered by the gift of comedy.
Participating in The Vagina Monologues is an unmistakably inspiring experience. Clearly, by performing
Enslers edifying material and thus tackling the subject of the female body, these Oberlin
women have come to feel newly empowered. Their empowerment transcended the stage to speak to men
and women alike.
But what if you have already seen The Vagina Monologues? What if you already feel empowered enough?
Ensler wants to expand our western gaze to include female atrocities happening all over the world
with her additions in the spirit of enlightenment. This is probably very important. It just may
not be as entertaining as an imitation triple-orgasm.