MEPs, Monologues and a Limerick (The Wall Street Journal)
Originally published in:
The Wall Street Journal
By Frances Robinson
Only in the European Parliament could something as uncontroversial as not hitting women become a source of drama. As part of V-Day, a global campaign to end violence against women and girls, a group of MEPs have invited playwright Eve Ensler to their performance of her celebrated play 'The Vagina Monologues' on March 6.
"It's a fantastic play, it's very inspiring and we wanted to bring that energy into the parliament," Franziska Brantner of the German Green party, one of nine female MEPs from across the political spectrum who will star in the play, told Real Time Brussels. "Women shouldn't be ashamed of talking about their sexuality, either in terms of pleasure, or in terms of being a victim."
The series of monologues, first performed in New York in 1996, is based on a series of interviews with women about the most intimate part of their body. Now the MEPs, including France's Mariel Gallo, Belgium's Isabelle Durant and Portugal's Ana Gomes will follow in the footsteps of Kate Winslet, Whoopi Goldberg and Jerry Hall in performing the play on stage.
However, not all of their colleagues are happy about the situation. "This sort of thing does not belong in the European Parliament... The ladies should move their performance to a theater," MEP Werner Langen, from Angela Merkel's CDU party, told German tabloid Bild-Zeitung (presumably he also objects to the topless photos the newspaper carries on its front page every day). "I call on Parliament President Martin Schulz to withdraw his approval for this event."
In any case, the performance is due to take place in the Parliament's Espace Yehudi Menuhin, which hosts events as diverse as Holocaust Remembrance Day, talks on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, and performances of early music and dance ensembles. It's hard to see how performing an award-winning play, albeit an attention-grabbing one, is at odds with the diverse other uses for the room. If the idea of a theatre inside a parliament is confusing, just let it go -- the European Parliament also boasts several bars, a gym, a hairdresser and a meditation room.
In a further twist, Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikstroem, another performer, won the respect of Brussels gossip website Berlaymonster by employing that stealth feminist weapon, the limerick poem, to put UKIP MEP Gerard Batten back in his place.
It's a challenge when those with vaginas, No longer put up with - in silence, This kind of old tripe, From him and his type, But speak up loud and clear against violence
The MEPs have devoted the event not just to V-Day, but also have a set of political demands including ensuring EU funding continues for programs to end violence against women, and ensuring the pan-European 'victims package' contains specific measures for victims of domestic violence.
All tickets for the event have been reserved and Ms. Ensler is scheduled to give closing remarks; now all the performers have to do is get ready to deliver lines such as "What would your vagina wear, if it got dressed?" instead of their usual "Voting begins now on the amendments."
"We've been rehearsing, everyone got to read the part they wanted," Ms. Brantner, speaking from Berlin, says of the project. "We're not professional actors, but we are all used to being on stage, none of us is afraid of speaking in public."