As The Vagina Monologues continues to gain widespread popularity in the U.S., many are beginning to wonder what all the fuss is about. In the most basic of definitions, The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler. It was first performed in 1996 at the HERE Arts Center in New York, NY.
The play was an instant sensation due to its blunt, humorous, and thought-provoking dialogue surrounding the taboo subject of vaginas. And that’s precisely the effect that playwright Ensler was going for.
“Twenty years ago, when I wrote The Vagina Monologues, it was very difficult to say the word ‘vagina’ anywhere,” Ensler remarked in an interview with Time. “The public utterance of the word alone was explosive as so much of the truth about what happened to vaginas was repressed, denied, kept secret, and coated in shame and self-hatred.”
The forthrightness of the characters encourages women to take pride in their sexuality rather than be ashamed of it. It is truly inspiring at a time when women are still ridiculed for engaging in promiscuous behavior.
The political undertones that are present within the play—including those involving reproductive rights, gender-based violence, and oppression—still ring true even today. That’s why The Vagina Monologues is commonly performed at universities and theaters across the country.
A few noteworthy excerpts from the play include:
“’What does your vagina smell like?’ ANSWER: ‘My husband’s face.’”
“The clitoris is pure in purpose. It is the only organ in the body designed purely for pleasure.”
“I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas—a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them—like the Bermunda Triangle.”
“Slowly, it dawned on me that nothing was more important than stopping violence toward women—that the desecration of women indicated the failure of human beings to honor and protect life.”
Part of what makes the play so well crafted is the fact that humor is used to give the audience a much-needed reprieve from the dismal subject of gender inequality. It is also written in such a way that men can enjoy the play as well. And that’s why it has garnered widespread acclaim from male and female critics alike.