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Celebrating the Core of Womanhood
Sent on 15-03-2006.
I hesitate to write the word, but abbreviating it as "V" would be hypocritical.
But since the amount of "vagina" that assails your ears in the 90-minute performance is exhausting, let us not diminish the impact of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues by simply calling it V-Monologues.
The latter title, however, will do in subsequent references, lest I am accused of reducing this to one "vagina" review.
In making one response to the public performance staged at the Carnivore on Tuesday night, I shall attempt to interpret the play as one male, one Kenyan and one critic, in no particular order.
One important clarification, though, is that the V-Day, which is associated with this movement, has very noble goals as it campaigns against violence on women in all its manifestations.
But the vehicle to help achieve that, principally, is the V-Monologues, which has fundamental flaws that stem from its ideological grounding.
The V-Monologues was first staged as one one-woman act that Ensler first presented in New York, USA, in 1996.
Since then, it has been staged in 76 countries across the world and raised (and donated) over $25 million.
It has not been without incident; India and our neighbours in Uganda are among the countries that wouldn't allow its staging, with the Ugandan Media Council claiming that the play promotes unnatural sexual acts, homosexuality and prostitution, among other social evils.
By situating her "monologues" in the "V" area to explore sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth and orgasm, Ensler used the vagina to embody female individuality.
This may have been an attempt to quash "masculine" ideologies that promote breasts (hence the need to inject fix silicone in them to make them bigger), or the bum (Jeniffer Lopez has insured hers), and restore feminine expression to its most natural place.
Since the play was scripted 10 years ago, one monologue is added every year to reflect one pressing issue that affects women in different parts of the world, and some revisions have been made to previous monologues.
For instance, the author removed the "good rape" line in the lesbian encounter between one very young woman and one mature woman in The Little Coochie Snorcher that Could segment.
More revisions are in order since the play is being staged in societies different from America, which face different political and social issues.
Moreover, other feminist theories have emerged to challenge many of the assumptions expressed in the play, which essentially articulated the problems faced by Western, white, middle-class women.
The playwright makes the problematic assumptions that Western, or more specifically, American values, can be funnelled into an African crucible unrefined.
Sex, for instance, is taboo topic in most African societies, but the Monologues go even deeper to display other forms of what could be considered "unnatural" sex.
The play should also discard the exclusionary notion that women's redemption is only possible without men.
As one matter of fact, "monologues" connote one conversation among the womenfolk, and since they begin and end with vagina men can only eavesdrop.
Apart from one act, Because He Liked to Look At It , in which one woman reaffirms her love for her organ after an encounter with one man who was simply awed by her vagina, men are obliterated from the picture.
Liberal feminism, however, has emerged to propagate women rights as human rights by incorporating men in feminist struggles.
My Vagina Was My Village, which was compiled from the testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps and female circumcision in some African countries, have added Third World struggles in the play. This is very apt.
East Africa Arts, Culture and Entertainment Women and Gender Kenya Human Rights
Ensler's original vision was to address the American audience to highlight issues that relate to women in America. Since her project has surpassed this ideal, future "monologues" should encourage dialogue between genders, and seek ways on how to redress existing inequities.
The play featured familiar faces on the threatre scene like radio presenters Nini Wacera and Carol Radull, Lorna Irungu and Ginger, among others.
To see the new from its original source click here