Monday, June 11, 2007

A Review and a Thought

I finally got one of the books I ordered from Amazon. It is Eve Ensler's new compilation A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant, and a Prayer: Writings to Stop Violence Against Women and Girls. I've been a fan of Ensler's literary and activist work ever since the first time I saw Vagina Monologues performed. All of the proceeds from the book and author royalties go to the V-day organization.

I took the book to the pool with me on Saturday. The pool was crowded with weekend sun-worshippers trying to get a little color before a night on the town. The concrete deck radiated a whole day's worth of heat. The sparkling blue water looked warm but was spine-tinglingly cold. I chose a deck chair far way from both the group of twenty-something women and another group of 30-something guys eyeing me up for totally different reasons. I slathered on a little more spf 45, spread out my decade-old Ralph Lauren beach towel and began to read.

While my skin beaded and ran with sweat, the words I read made my insides grow cold. Regardless of the artistry of the writing, the words rape, mutilation, molestation, violence, and violation reverbrated through me. As the climax of the stories built, I felt myself growing still, willing the all too real protaganists to triumph. Sometimes they overcame, some barely survived, some didn't. I felt empathy. There was sorrow. And strangely, to me, guilt.

Luckily, I have not been part of the 1 in 3 statistic. There have been situations that could have gone wrong, but they didn't. No men in my life have ever laid a hand on me in violence. They've never laid a hand on me sexually without invitation. I've been taken for granted, lied to, and cheated on, but never emotionally or physically abused. I feel blessed that I've been spared that. But in the same way that I look at children with terminal cancer, it doesn't seem fair that some people get to live such safe, sheltered existences while others have to endure horror and tragedy. It makes me feel like those of us who have been spared have even more social responsibility to reach out to victims of abuse and work even harder to end the violence against women once and for all.

We make jokes about what it means to be a feminist, but for me it doesn't come down to how much money we make on the job compared with men or how many women are in political posts. It comes down to how the historically perpetuated social framework in which we live views women, their sexuality, and how men are allowed to treat them. It's a complicated issue. We've made so much headway. Most of the men I know treat the women in their lives like queens. But reading this book, I realized anew how many negative attitudes (and the problems they create) are still very much alive and well even in the most progressive nations in the world. We need more than a band-aid to put on the problem of violence; we need to re-educate the attitudes that make violence possible.

I left the pool that afternoon with a couple more freckles and an unsettled feeling. I'm not aware whether or not St. Louis has a V-Day chapter. If not, that might have to change.


  1. Excellent as always Aln, as unsettling and true as it is. May I borrow the book?