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[Eve] Ensler is the idea woman behind V-Day 1998, a campaign to end violence against women, which features a benefit performance of her award-winning play ‘The Vagina Monologues’ at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. Ensler has asked hundreds of women about their privates – something not all were ready to discuss. "What are we saying about our bodies if we can’t say ‘vagina’?" she asks.
…Not an easy thing to do, especially in public. Even an esteemed agitator like Gloria Steinem admits to discomfort with uttering the word. "I came of age in the 1950s," says Steinem, who wrote the foreword to the book version of the play (published this month by Villard). "Words like ‘vagina’ and ‘menstruation’ were embarrassing, and a word like ‘clitoris’ was said by Freud to be childlike. So you can see what kind of deep shit we were in." Nonetheless, Steinem is reading portions of the drama on February 14, along with Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Cho, and Lily Tomlin.
The play, which includes a piece on rape in Bosnia, a list of things a vagina might wear, and a monologue by an old woman who hasn’t looked at her own ‘down there’ for decades, is less graphic than poignant. "The piece has never been titillating," says Ensler. "There’s an orgasm at the end, but even that is more about power. The larger statement here is about women and the world holding sacred what lives between our legs, that place of our birth."
So to be fair, should we also have a P-Day for men? "Every day is Penis Day," notes Ensler. "It would be redundant."