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The Vagina Monologues

The Vagina Monologues is the first book of 2017 to feature in Emma Watson's hugely successful feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf. I was quite excited to get my hands on this for the book club, as it has always been something I've been very intrigued to read. This paperback is fairly short, at 224 pages, and I was able to read it in a day and a half (probably because I was so engrossed). 

The book is based on the controversial play which started Off-Broadway in 1996. It turned into a political giant throughout culture, with audiences both leaving the theatre feeling outraged and liberated at the same time. TVM garnered a worldwide fan base, and was the catalyst for V Day, a global activist movement celebrated each year on Valentine's Day about ending violence towards women

Eve Ensler was inspired to write a play after chatting to several of her friends about their own experiences as a woman, with them telling Eve other anecdotes about their own friends. This created a domino effect in her researchShe decided to interview 200 women about different things, ranging from sex, relationships and what their own vagina would wear if it could wear anything 

As I picked up this book for the first time, whilst curled under a duvet on a rainy Saturday afternoon, it dawned on me that Eve's words would only feel relevant to those women who would have been reading it and seeing it for the first time in theatres, back in 1996. I didn't know if anything in this book would speak to me on a personal level or not at 23, and boy I couldn't have been more wrong. One of the monologues, called "I Was Twelve, My Mother Slapped Me", is a collection of different answers from different women about what happened, or was said to them, the day they got their first period. I was so surprised and shocked whilst reading some of the answers; "I was twelve. My mother slapped me and brought me a red cotton shirt. My father went out for a bottle of sangria." I couldn't believe that a girl experiencing something so natural, and normal in puberty, could be treated so badly by the people who are supposed to support her as she grows into a woman. One of the anecdotes said: "My father brought me a card: "To my little girl who isn't so little anymore." I related to this one in particular - it felt very close to home. 

On one of the days I was reading TVM, I was actually sat on a very busy morning train into London. At first, I felt quite embarrassed about reading a book with the word 'vagina' in the title. Would I get strange looks from the fellow commuters? Would they laugh? Would they roll their eyes and think "not another angry feminist"?. The whole experience felt a little bit uncomfortable, but why did it? This is something that Eve Ensler discusses with women throughout the book. A woman pointed out in the research that it was more socially offensive to say the word 'c*nt' out loud, over the term 'd*ck'. The monologues really do make you question why people feel ashamed to openly discuss vaginas in public, and I found that quite fascinating. After a while, I became more comfortable reading that book on the train. It was like a weight had been lifted, and I didn't feel ashamed to be associated with it anymore. I guess that's what Eve Ensler was trying to accomplish all along... women shouldn't feel ashamed, embarrassed, or intimidated by their own vaginas, and I am so thankful that I can share the reading experience with Our Shared Shelf


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