Book Review of The Vagina Monologues
This is my book review of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. I read the book as part of my A Play A Week challenge, where I try to read 52 plays in a year.
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
“2008 marks the tenth anniversary of V-day, the dynamic grassroots movement to end violence against women and girls that was inspired by the international sensation The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler. […] Hailed as the bible for a new generation of women, The Vagina Monologues honors female sexuality in all its complexity and mystery. Witty and irreverent, compassionate and wise, this award-winning masterpiece gives voice to real women’s deepest fantasies and fears, guaranteeing that no one who reads it will ever look at a woman’s body, or think of sex, in quite the same way again.”
The above text is kindly borrowed from the back of the book.
Vagina Monologues in a tenth anniversary edition
So, the blurb from the back of the book promises quite a lot. When I picked up this booked I wasn’t very familiar with its story and impact. Actually, I had hardly heard of it. But it sounded free and fun, so why not give it a try!
Vagina isn’t a weird word to me at all. (What with both being the owner of one and having encountered bodies and talk about bodies in my field of work in the arts. Yes, it can get weird sometimes, but it’s work, right?). So this in itself doesn’t really trigger any new emotions or make the monologues seem provocative to me. I get that this also comes with my background in a fairly ‘free-spirited’ and open minded upbringing/country.
Still, it was liberating. Imagine just reading a play all about something that most people shy away from talking about. Yet most if not all of humankind have been in close proximity to a vagina at least once. Why is it so hard to talk about?
Even in the 10 year anniversary edition, it seems to still be somewhat groundbreaking in that sense.
Edit: The reading experience
Okay, so a reader of the blog kindly mentioned that I had failed to actually state whether or not this was an enjoyable read at all! Thank the heavens for attentive readers who are just as passionate about books and their reading, as I am.
So, in all honesty, I did enjoy reading this book. As it is a collection of smaller monologues based on statements from a variety of people, I went through a variety of emotions. Some stories were fun and cute and a bit silly. Some were harder to read, but it didn’t make me cry. I think sometimes you become immune to “emotional p*rn” (for lack of a better expression). Which it kind of felt like, even with some of the monologues being about some quite harsh and tragic experiences. It was easily read and didn’t require a lot going into it. So if you’re intrigued by the subject, peoples thoughts on vaginas in a monologue format, then go for it. You can always just read a few at a time, as there is no linear progression and no “real” plot. It’s not really that story-focused.
(I kindly thank Mr. Bond for responding so earnestly to my newsletter, containing the latest blogposts, including this very “unsatisfactory read”)
Let’s talk about it
I like how Ensler interviewed a variety of people about their relationship to vaginas. It was fun to read and also fun to imagine different ways of staging such a piece. Granted, there are also sobering parts of the monologues. People who describe complex feelings towards their own genitalia and trauma connected to it. It’s not all roses, obviously.
I think, overall, that the Vagina Monologues still serve as an important work and an important play. Even today, and even in my contexts. Normalizing bodies and how we talk about them, is such a lifechanging thing to do and this play certainly goes part of the way. It’s not telling us how to feel, and it’s not just for people with vaginas to experience. It’s for everyone, to hear about how different vaginas can be, and how that affects your life. Even and especially if you don’t think it does.
That was a lot of talking about vaginas. But it’s art, right.
One thing though, is that I do agree with some Intersex platforms, on the fact that the monologues are not very inclusive or sensitive towards the Intersex community. (Intersex people are people born with genitalia that doesn’t easily fit into the classic male/female distinction. A lot of them experience surgery at a very young age, against their will, in order for them to “fit in”. Which, naturally, they want to end. This is also the main reason I write about “people” with vaginas, and not “women”, as the latter feels excluding towards both trans- and intersex communities.)
If you want to read more about that, I’ll recommend starting here or with a simple web search for “Intersex Monologues”. If I was to set up the Vagina Monologues as a play in these current times, I’d definitely want to run it over with a fresh pair of glasses. I also can’t speak for cultural experiences different than my own in this instance, so I’ll have to let you readers tell me how this book was from your perspective!
(If you’re wondering whether such a piece exist for the penis-oriented audience, then yes. It’s called The Penis Monologues… )
Are you familiar with The Vagina Monologues? Do you think its appropriate to talk about genitals like that in the arts? Let me know what you think and where you are from in the comments below!
If you’d like more inspiration on what to read next, feel free to check out my entire collection of book reviews right here>>