#BangingBookClub: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

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 Yes, I haven’t blogged for ages. Yes, this should have been posted in February. Yes, I’m sorry. Now on with the show…  *

(*I truly am sorry)

This play is about exactly what you think it’s about – vaginas (which sounds so weird to say, I guess because I’ve internalised this shame and secrecy surrounding the female genitalia, heck even writing the word genitalia makes me feel awkward). The play goes back and forth between dialogue, individual stories about certain women’s experiences with their own vaginas and facts.

There is this “darkness and secrecy surrounding them”, a shame I think originates from the patriarchal idea that women’s bodies should be private and unseen . It is hilariously described as a mysterious place, like a cave “nobody ever reports back” from. Continuously throughout the different accounts, the same feeling about the vagina being  detached from us, not a part of us, seemed to crop up a lot, for example the lady in The Flood was so ashamed about having an orgasm in her youth that she locked it up like a “cellar”. Contrastingly, it’s interesting that when a six-year-old is asked to describe her vagina, her descriptions are mostly positive images, “snowflakes”, “peach”, and a smart “diamond”, like she hasn’t been impacted by the negativity surrounding her own body yet. 

Who needs a handgun when you’ve got a semiautomatic?

When asked to speak about their vaginas, the women got “excited” – we internalise this shamefulness surrounding them but once it became normalised these women felt happy to talk about their vaginas. But they aren’t just something sexual, as reinforced in I Was There In The Room, they’re “a sacred vessel”, a gateway to human life.

A deep well with a tiny stuck child inside, waiting to be rescued.

I will now talk about some of the individual stories…

Hair  

In this story the woman was made to shave off her pubic hair by her husband, despite the fact that she didn’t want to. She was made to do something to her own vagina that she wasn’t happy nor comfortable with and even the therapist called it a compromise that must be made in marriage. Yet this was a one way compromise, and after everything, her husband still cheated on her.

The Vagina Workshop

This was such an odd concept to me, do these really exist? The lady who attended the workshop felt that her vagina was like an “abstract plane”, she also did not see it as something attached to her and only knew what she knew about vaginas from things she’d heard . And like so many other women she also held this  shame of orgasming and fear of being “frigid” and incapable.

My Angry Vagina was a right chuckle and definitely one of my favourites! The way it was personified and the voice of the story was just great. This contrasted starkly with My Vagina Was My Village, a darker and jarred story.  

I dream there’s a dead animal sewn in down there with thick black fishing line

Did you know that it’s illegal to sell vibrators in some states in the US? Like you can buy a gun, but not a VIBRATOR?

We have yet to hear of a mass murder committed with a vibrator.

 I Was There In The Room, the last of the stories, was one of my favourites. It was so graphic, yet beautifully written, to emphasise the ugly and the preciousness of childbirth. The ending was almost poetic, and perfect end to the play in my opinion. I’d love to see it live!

The heart is capable of sacrifice.
So is the vagina.
The heart is able to forgive and repair.
It can change its shape to let us in.
It can expand to let us out.
So can the vagina.
It can ache for us and stretch for us, die for us
and bleed and bleed us into this difficult, wondrous world. I was there in the room.
I remember.

Overall, The Vagina Monologues were funny, quirky, and fascinating to read. It’s a quick and light read (despite it taking me so long to blog about it!) and definitely one I recommend to anyone. The only criticism I really have is that it ignores sexuality and gender.

Goodreads |Buy The Vagina Monologues

Until another time,

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#BangingBookClub: Asking For It by Louise O’Neill

So Youtubers Hannah Witton, Leena Norms and Lucy Moon are  running a book reading club called #BangingBookClub. As opposed to making a video, I’ll be participating via my blog!

Their video review

The first in this year’s list is…

Asking For It by Louise O’Neil

**trigger warning:novel contains rape and descriptions of self-harm**

{Blog post will be referencing these}

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Is it possible to want everything to change and nothing to change, all at the same time?

This book got me thinking a lot about how we treat victims of rape, how every societal institution plays their part in victim blaming, through the eyes of the media, the law, local communities, and family & friends etc.

Admittedly, yes, the main character Emma was portrayed as an absolute bitch from the very beginning: she belittled her own friends, bullied her fellow students, and was generally a right pain in the arse. However, that dislike of her character I had felt at the start instantly disappeared once she became a victim.

While she wasn’t there for Jamie, her friend who also tells her that she was raped,she soon learns what it actually means to be. None of her friends are truly there for her, although after some initial hostility her friends talk to her again, there is still a sense of blame from them (Ali: “forgives” her for sleeping with Sean, the guy she fancies, the guy who rapes Emma).

Her parents are also very oblivious to how their behaviour is affecting their daughter. Emma’s Father ignores her completely, again reinforcing this feeling of self-blame within Emma, while her Mother turns to alcohol and becomes a victim instead of staying strong for her daughter who is an actual victim, always stopping short at ‘this wouldn’t have happened if… [you hadn’t gotten raped]’. Reading this through Emma’s eyes made me feel like nobody cared for her wants and needs, even when she decides to withdraw her complaint to please her parents, I felt like it was not what she truly wanted.

Media hysteria, and in this day and age, social media also, play a part in victim blaming, highlighted through the the snippets of the Ned O’Dwyer show that Emma eavesdrops on and sensationalist newspapers she finds.  

  •  What did she expect?
  •  Wearing skirts up to their arses
  •  She was asking for trouble

These kind of questions and thinking are preventing young women in situations like Emma’s from being helped.

Even religion’s part in the treatment of rape victims is criticised in the novel, with Father Michael, the book’s local priest, openly shaking hands with and giving his condolences to the perpetrators. I don’t want to go too much into it but I feel like many fundamentalist thinkers see women as temptresses, thus again enforcing this stereotype that women who are raped are to be blamed, especially in Catholic communities in Ireland like Ballinatoom, where the book is set in (which I can’t help thinking sounds like a fictitious Cbeebies town!)

The only characters who fully understand, or attempt to understand Emma, and are completely there for her throughout are Bryan (her brother) and Conor, whom are ironically both male (I’m not sure if O’Neill did this on purpose or not!)

Another thing which shocked me was how much the small community they lived in mattered to the issue so much, an aspect I hadn’t considered having lived in a city all my life. The fact that everybody knew each other  and that the perpetrators were considered to be ‘good local boys’ added to the disbelief of the fact that Emmie had been raped,her  Mother even going as far as to say that she didn’t understand how it could have happened because “he dressed nicely”.

And finally, I’d just like to comment on the injustice of the law that allowed Emma’s abusers to still walk free in her community and allowed them to continue harassing her. How is this allowed? I don’t completely know how the Irish justice system works in comparison to other parts of the UK or how claims of rape are dealt with, but the fact that abusers can get away with their behaviour and continue harassing and abusing is completely absurd to me.

I liked the use of the repetition of negative phrases throughout the book which Emma had heard and read about her, as it showed how much the negativity around her had impacted upon her, which I thought perfectly depicted the anxiety aspects of depression, the words going around and around in her head, squeezing into every part of your brain and chest, rendering you worthless and necessary, at least mentally anyway.

The novel ends on an ambiguous note, atypical of normal books, but it serves to indicate that it is not all rainbows and sunshine for victims like Emma, like all the Emmas of the world, who still have a long way to go and a lot of healing to go through.

I  really enjoyed this novel. I’m glad I read it as it gave me a lot to think about and really presented ideas of rape in a very thought provoking manner.

Thoughts? Have any of you read this before or would like to?


 

If you’ve been affected by any of the issues talked about here///

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call the Police on 999.

NHS Direct Helpline ‐ 24 hour medical advice and information service: 111

Alternatively, you can contact several voluntary organisations for emotional support:

The Samaritans | 0845 790 9090 | www.samaritans.org

Saneline |0845 767 8000 | www.sane.org.uk

RoI Rape Crisis Centre | 1800 77 8888 | www.drcc.ie

UK Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre | 0808 802 9999 | www.rasasc.org.uk


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Until next time,
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