- A tool against sexual harassment and violence against women
Never has a play caused so much altercation like Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. The Obie award-winning episodic play is made up of various monologues read by a various women.
Every monologue somehow relates to the vagina, be it through sex, love, rape, menstruation, mutilation, masturbation, birth, orgasm, the variety of names for the vagina, or simply as a physical aspect of the body.
The play that has been published in 45 languages and performed in over 120 countries since 1996, including Iraq, sometimes with major stars such as Cate Blanchett , Kate Winslet, Susan Sarandon and Whoopi Goldberg is used today as tool to fight violence against women and sexual harassment.
A recurring theme throughout the piece is the vagina as a tool of female empowerment, and the ultimate embodiment of individuality an aspect that has attracted feminists all over the world and angered a lot of men.
In some places however it’s not just the men that are against it and it has been labeled obscene. Not far from us in Uganda, this play almost got its organizers arrested in 2005 and was banned as an affront to public morality.
Surprisingly, however, this has not stopped a conservative Rwanda from showing it. Only recently, on February 19 this year, the play was performed at the Torero Cafe under the name Rwanda monologues.
As the name shows a number of changes were made to the script making no mention of the word vagina. Only two of Ensler’s monologues “I was there in the room” and “Baptized” were included and the rest were written by the woman of Achieving a Better Life and ranged from how woman are treated in rural societies to rape by soldiers during the Genocide.
Others were about being forced into marriage at a young age and there were two that explored the positive themes of love and marriage, with a healthy sex life.
Although you could argue this changed the whole idea behind the play I chose to say that the play was put in the Rwandan context instead.
Something Rwandans can easily relate to and maybe this is what most countries should adopt. If you are not happy wit the content then change it to suite the public keeping the topic in mind.
Watching the play being performed in Ottawa made me realize that it is not that the monologues are obscene but rather that different aspects are considered obscene in different societies.
One of the actresses (the only African in the cast), Nesochi Chinwuba from Nigeria admitted that some of the monologues would not go down well with her people which is why it was banned in Northern Nigeria.
I had to agree with her as my jaw dropped a number of times during the performance. Although criticized for encouraging homosexuality, lesbianism and worship of the female sexual organs the Vagina Monologues is special because it is the cornerstone of the V-Day movement whose aim is to end violence against women and girls by raising funds through staging benefit performances of the show worldwide each year between February 1 and March 31.
This year the focus is on Congo and the sexual abuse against its women. Women of all ages calling themselves vagina warriors are performing this play all over the world and the funds collected will be used to help women in Congo in a bid to protect what they call a woman’s greatest feature.