Written by Eve Ensler and first performed in 1998, The Vagina Monologues is a shocking play about women, their bodies and acceptance of their bodies. As a feminist I feel some pressure to love this play. (I want to point out that I only read the script; I didn’t see the play being performed.) However, I didn’t. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either.
What I did love about VM is the consistent message to love and accept your body for what it is, as many women, I’m sure, are aware of a somewhat patriarchal aversion to discussing female genitalia and sexuality. Throughout the play we are constantly encouraged to love our bodies and it encourages people, both men and women, to become more comfortable with what is still generally seen as quite a taboo topic, and to not be embarrassed.
The personal accounts were the best part of the script for me, because they were filled with emotion and the thought-provoking stories deserve to be told. I am sure a performance would contain even more emotion, and therefore be more impactful.
I think the purpose of this piece is to shock, and it certainly achieves that. I can imagine that VM was the cultural phenomenon that it was in the 2000s largely due to this shock factor and therefore seen as quite groundbreaking.
The writing is very poetic, and though I understand this makes it perhaps more impactful when being performed, I found the writing to be distracting from the personal accounts we hear. I found it thoroughly too spiritual and too abstract for me to take seriously throughout. I fail to understand why what my ‘vagina would wear’ is a relevant topic. I can however appreciate that these sections would encourage discussions on the topic, which is of course a good thing, but that for me just distracted from the experiences.
I understand how important it is for both men and women to be aware of and comfortable with their bodies, but for me at times I felt like VM reduced women to merely a piece of anatomy, which is a trend we are surely trying to get away from? Of course it is different to patriarchal objectification of women’s bodies, but still of the same vein.
I also think the text needs updating as it is almost twenty years old now, and really ought to be more inclusive of transgender women, and younger women who have perhaps grown up with different experiences.
Finally, I do believe that this play (the script, anyway) has an overall positive impact on women’s acceptance of their bodies and making the vagina a less taboo topic, though perhaps it is a little outdated and the shock tactics and poeticism is not to everyone’s tastes.