Tthis is the line Readinglatest book by V (formerly Eve Ensler)where she shares her desperation to make people understand what violence, especially rape, does to women.
“I tested it with data and performance, desire and appeal, despair,” wrote the best-known author of his 1996 play, The Vagina Monologues. He wonders if there will yet be a speech that will “sound a shrill cry.”
Reading, a collection of V’s past prose and poems as well as new pieces, comes close to that cry. He describes what he saw in Croatia, Congo, the streets of New York City. He talks about seeing a price list for women held in an ISIS sex slave market and about women in Oklahoma City lining up to tell him their rape stories after a game. The Vagina Monologues.
Data is not easy to read, nor should it be. Among the common consequences of rape are fistulas, holes between the vagina and the bladder. “A hole made by rape or pushing an instrument into her vagina. A hole in his body. A hole in his soul. The hole where his hope, his honor, his soul, his light, his urine leak.”
Fistula was very common in the Congolese hospital where V volunteered to be invited by Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work in caring for victims of what V calls “feminicide.” However, these are not the only consequences of sexual violence. Mild breakdown is more common. The list price of ISIS girls aged 1 to 9 is almost double the rate of women 20 to 30, while women over 50 had no market value at all. In New York City, V met a dying woman who tried to talk about what she used to be. V’s monologue, “I Was a Comedian Once,” was inspired by the woman’s story. “I was funny. I wore silk clothes. I read complex books,” reads the monologue. Now, the words hurt. They remind me that I am dirty.
Although V criticizes people who are deaf to the experience of women, he also understands their delay. In “Dear White Women,” a piece she wrote in 2018 during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, she talks to women who laughed when Donald Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who alleged that Kavanaugh had assaulted him.
He writes: “I know that most of you risk coming out and saying that you believe in a woman more than a man.” “If one woman out of three in the world has been raped or beaten, it means that some of you must have had this experience. Believing in another woman means touching the pain and the fear and the sadness and the anger of your experience and sometimes it feels unbearable.”
V is not only about the pain and rejection of women. 1991 gameIrregular Steps, and several poems are about men who died during the AIDS crisis. “Suddenly, like a big hole in the cultural ozone, they disappeared.” The latest virus, COVID, has led to the “patriarchs of disaster.” Echoing Naomi Klein’s term “crisis capitalism,” V says the epidemic has “presented the most powerful obstacle to women’s freedom” in her lifetime, closing the gap to create “a perfect storm of abuse. “
V’s experience is the inspiration for his work. She says her father repeatedly beat her when she was a little girl and spanked her when she was a teenager. His mother, who had no sales skills and no way to leave V’s father, later admitted that she had “sacrificed” him.
V’s father died before he could reconcile with her. His 2019 book, The Apology, offers a remedy that he could not find. He says inside Reading that text The Apology – considered in his father’s own words – changed his life, which led to his name change. It also made him think about what true forgiveness might be, an “excavated well” with “the possibility of change, of freedom.” He writes that true forgiveness should have four steps: an investigation of the person’s history and what led to the offending actions, full acceptance of what was done, a compassionate understanding of the person who has been hurt, and take full responsibility. It is another part of the “reading” process.
Reading it ends up redeeming, despite its tragic subject matter. In his final chapter, “V: A Dream Vision of My New Name,” he describes the “V” characters of his dreams as humble, non-elite, prophetic. When he describes them, he offers a possibility, even if they seem like a dream.
After all, he writes, “The whole world is someone else’s story.”
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