This weekend, Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues, debuted the newest addition to the Monologues, written about Occupy Wall Street. The program featured sixteen monologues with a finale by Ensler herself as a special production of Monologues with Occupy Wall Street, Vaginas Occupy Wall Street. As someone who has seen Monologues performed before in college and who has read the book several times, I did not expect to be surprised. Yet, surprised I was.
The performance began with the Occupy mic check, a call and response where the first performer yelled out "Vaginas! Occupy! Wall Street!" and the audience gladly mimicked. The mic check was utilized again twice during the evening. The second time, the audience was asked to do a mic check for the word "cunt" during the "Reclaiming Cunt" monologue, where the usage of the word cunt is preferred and encouraged to the more technical and less sexy term of vagina. Screaming 'cunt' over and over again with my fellow audience members was a liberating, freeing and communal experience. The third time, Eve Ensler asked the audience to participate in a moaning mic check after her own finale, harkening back to "The Woman Who Loves to Make Vaginas Happy" monologue, featuring a sex worker who describes the variety of moaning women express as they receive pleasure. Eve Ensler asked us to moan, so, we moaned. In the grand finale (pun intended), we all joined in sounding out short bursts of moans, screams, exclamations, and various guttural sounds. We left feeling relieved. It was an evening of opening, listening, and this was our way of sharing and connecting to the Monologues and the women behind them. Did I expect the 50-year-old woman next to me to yell out cunt? No. Did I expect the two college guys behind me to simulate a woman's orgasm? Definitely not. But that is the beauty of the monologues, they are always evolving, taking new shape, acquiring a different life. They are always surprising you.
The newest addition to the Monologues, "Over It", the Occupy-inspired monologue, focused on the charges against Herman Cain and how we possibly could have had a man running for president with rape charges against him. It expressed outrage at Penn State standing up for Joe Paterno, instead of the victims. It articulated our frustration at the rape groups on Facebook and Facebook's delay in removing them. It addressed the problem of rape at Occupy and it emphasized that we are fed up with it, we are "over it," and what we must do now is to "occupy rape everywhere."
The Vaginas Occupy Wall Street performance was presented just as Ensler premiered One Billion Rising, a yearlong action to have one billion women and men stand up to demand an end to the global violence against women. The performance was a sort of comeback for Ensler. Seeing Ensler again during certainly felt revitalizing as an audience member. The first time I had ever seen Ensler was during her performance in Reckoning with Torture with Pen American Center in 2009. As she read Bush's infamous speech commemorating the United Nations Day in Support of Victims of Torture with power and triumph, I was moved to tears by what our country had done under his regime and by our attempts to make sense of it. When I saw her again last year for an evening with Afghani activist, Malalai Joya, Ensler seemed somewhat shaken. As someone who had seen her power and heard the energy in her voice before, I knew something was gone. When I heard her TED talk, "Suddenly, my body", I realized that something was not gone, it was shaken. It was battling cancer. To see her now, revived and rejuvenated, was an inspiring experience. Like the women whose stories she made public and heard, she had suffered, but had not let that defeat her. She was powerful and resolute. As she raised onto the stage she said "I'm so excited... I feel relaxed for the first time in a long time".
V-Day was going strong, the Occupy movement and its effects were felt around the world, and she felt she was witnessing a "vagina revolution." She stressed that now, "We need to be brave. We need to be more outrageous," and we couldn't help but admire her bravery at championing us. She discussed her experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo, of our abuse of the country and its resources, and our responsibility for the rape of the women. "Everyone is a proxy now," she pointed out, as "the world takes whatever it wants." As she exclaimed that "until women are free, you cannot have a discussion on freedom," the connection to the Occupy movement was unquestionable. Ensler ended the performance with a clear message: "It's about value... if you love people and say I will support you, people rise." We shook our fingers in solidarity, clapped in agreement and left feeling inspired to action.