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Ali G, Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego, criticized movie censors for allowing the word vagina to appear in movies. "It is a dirty, insulting word," he argued. Eve Ensler, creator of The Vagina Monologues, being performed this week by the Jerusalem-based theater company BaMatMaBat, would probably disagree with Mr. G - and not only on the grounds of general idiocy.
"Women's empowerment is deeply connected to their sexuality," Ensler said in an interview with Women.com. "I'm obsessed with women being violated and raped, and with incest. All of these things are deeply connected to our vaginas."
Ensler wrote The Vagina Monologues in 1996 following interviews she conducted with 200 women regarding their views on sex, relationships and violence against women. The play is made up of a varying number of monologues, each relating to the vagina, be it via sex, love, mutilation, birth or simply as a physical aspect of the body.
Following performances, women would line up to tell Ensler of their own experiences, often relating to sexual violence. It was in light of such reactions that Ensler launched V-day, which takes place in February and March. V-day uses performances of The Vagina Monologues to raise money to benefit female victims of violence and sexual abuse.
Shira Katz, an actor with BaMatMaBat, performs The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy. In it, she portrays a dominatrix who discusses her career working with women and her love of giving women pleasure. At the monologue's conclusion she depicts the different types of orgasms a women has, climaxing with a vocal demonstration of a triple orgasm.
"It's a funny bit, but there's more to it," says Katz by phone from her Jerusalem apartment. "She discovered a part of herself that she loved and makes no apologies for exploring it. I hope it will inspire women to celebrate their womanhood, and show them that it's OK to love themselves."
"Furthermore," Katz offers, "I think it's important that women feel just as comfortable discussing their own anatomy and sexuality as men do. The word 'vagina' appears 132 times in the monologues. I certainly have become a lot more comfortable with the word since reading them and rehearsing for the show."
Despite it's good cause, the play has received criticism from feminist organizations. Many declare that the play has a negative view of sexuality and an anti-male bias. A point to which Katz completely disagrees, "I think men will be surprised that it isn't anti-male. If there is any negative portrayal of men in the monologues it is only because there are stories of an adulterous husband and a rapist. I think most people would see adultery and rape as a bad thing."
Katz notes that, not only is there positive-male representation but The Vagina Monologues are decidedly a theater event for both genders. "There is actually a monologue called Because He Liked to Look at It, which tells the story of a woman who came to love her vagina only after a positive experience with a man," she says. "I think men can learn a lot about women from the monologues. And there might even be a few monologues that men can directly relate to as well because of their relationships with the women in their lives."
16 monologues are to be performed in the BaMatMaBat production. Among them are: I Was There In The Room, in which Ensler describes the birth of her granddaughter; My Vagina Was My Village, compiled from the testimonies of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps; and Baptized, about women in the Congo.
Katz urges people to come see the play even if they already seen it before because: "A) it's a benefit and the money goes to a great cause. And, B) every actor adds a different dynamic to her monologue, so it's unlikely that the audience will see the same show twice."
The Vagina Monolgues are performed at Tel Aviv's Teatron Hastudio (37 Harav Kook St., (03) 516-2991) on March 23 at 8 p.m. and at Jerusalem's Merkaz Hamagshimim Theater (7 Dor Dor VeDorshav, (02) 561-9165) on March 26 and 28 at 8 p.m. Tickets cost NIS 60 with 10% going to V-Day and 90% directly to Circle of Health International (cohintl.org), an Israel based non-profit which facilitates women's health care in crisis settings such as Tanzania, Sudan and Louisiana. For tickets call (054) 789-7144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org