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BOOK REVIEW Ė EVE ENSLER - THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES 1998 Virago Press.

 

Revolutionary feminist book, leading to a powerful national movement, based on the award winning and very popular stage play. The author interviewed a number of women about different aspects of their vaginas, from clitoral stimulation, orgasms, pregnancy, childbirth, to the horrors of rape and female circumcision (vaginal mutilation).Many women have proved to be very sensitive about making any reference to their vaginas, and words like Vulva, clitoris, and pussy and cunt have become extremely taboo. Ensler encourages women to talk candidly and without shame about themselves.

 

She found that in discussing the vagina with her subjects, they were keen to tell remarkable stories and intimate aspects of their lives.The collected data became the basis for a one-woman show, presented initially by the author, and the monologues became a major stage success, with thousands of women (and many men) of all ages rushing to see it. As well as the author, many leading actresses, including Glenn Close, and Gillian Anderson have performed the monologues, which often incorporates an audience participation chanting of the word Cunt.

 

The play led to an important feminist campaign to support womenís rights against genital mutilation, promoted through performances of the show. The traditional date for events relating to the Monologues is Valentineís Day, aka V-day. And the book concludes with many moving letters and testimonies from people who have seen the shows or helped organize and promote performances. The dialogues are short, snappy and accompanied by the authorís notes about her interviews with the women who freely supported the project by telling their amazing stories so freely. Thanks to Ensler, fewer women are now afraid or ashamed of their vaginas or talking about their vaginas. The Monologues are very much the celebration of the V word.

 

The most moving and brave section is the authorís visit to refugee camps to meet women who have been systematically raped as part of the social cleansing program of war zones like Bosnia. Much of the study is funny, perceptive and all of it extremely important. This may be the most important feminist work since Germaine Greerís The Female Eunuch.

 

Arthur Chappell

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