A recent BBC report on the growing trend of women wanting designer vaginas had me thinking of the seminal play, The Vagina Monologues, by the American playwright and feminist Eve Ensler. The play written and performed by Ensler for the first time in 1996 in New York quickly catapulted to a feminist phenomenon. It inspired V-day, a global non-profit charity to oppose violence against women, which in 2009 alone has held over 4200 benefit events; a book entitled A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer comprising pieces by such famous personalities as Tariq Ali, Maya Angelou and Jane Fonda; and a television film on HBO by the same name. Besides, the play itself has been performed in 28 countries covering all habitable continents of the world except Australia.
I came across The Vagina Monologues when it was performed in Mumbai, India for the first time in 2003. The play – a set of monologues by women about their different vaginal experiences – was funny, tragic, empowering and incredibly graphic. At a superficial level, it was about sexual violence committed against women. But under that, it was a larger call for women to embrace their sexuality without any guilt or shame, and vocalise their experiences and desires. In particular, I remember one of the skits, Because He Liked to Look At It. It was about how we, women, often don’t even know what our vaginas look like, simply thinking them to be ugly and embarrassing. It had a woman sit in front of a mirror and look, properly look, at her vagina.
Well, it seems many British women have taken Ensler’s advice to heart and have sat in front of a mirror to look, properly look, at their vaginas. The result: they found it ugly and embarrassing, screamed in horror, and ran to the nearest plastic surgeon to demand a better, designer vagina. As Douglas McGeorge, the past president of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, described the surgery: “this is just about removing a bit of loose flesh, leaving behind an elegant-looking labia with minimum scarring”.
Hmmm... what would Ensler think about this latest vaginal twist.
London nugget: Ensler performed The Vagina Monologues at the tiny pub-theatre, the King’s Head, on Upper Street, London in 1999. As Ensler fondly recalled on Timesoline: “Ah, the King's Head. I had to pee in a pot because there weren't any toilets.”