Vagina warriors: Once more unto the breach!

Eve Ensler hosts a two-week festival of vagina-tude.

Published June 13, 2006 7:30PM (EDT)

Everyone, it's time to clench and release, clench and release, clench and release with joy! Eve Ensler is back, making the world a safer place for women who feel their own power by conceiving of themselves as giant, walking, hooded sexual organs. Yay vaginas! Yay women! Yay vaginas! Or whatever.

Yes, as a story in the New York Times began yesterday, "It's the next level of the vagina franchise": Ensler's two-week New York arts festival devoted to "bringing the issue of violence against women front and center." The festival involves theatrical performances and a film festival, musical acts, community events, a brisk and empowering run through Prospect Park in Brooklyn and, as the Times reports, 10 days at Yankee Stadium during which the message "Until the Violence Stops: NYC" will flash on the stadium's jumbotron screen. The whole schedule of events is available at the V-Day Web site (where you'll no doubt want to snap up your own soft pink "Vagina Warrior" ski cap).

Ensler and her anatomically enthusiastic project are not my favorite elements of current feminism, but as usual, it's hard to fault the cause. We are all for bringing the issue of violence against women front and center. It's just that with V-Day events, that usually entails bringing Eve Ensler front and center. Check out the Web site and you'll find that the first column of "v-news" is not about violence against women but about Ensler's fight against the violence against women. (It seems there has not yet been a news story invented that cannot become about Ensler; she confesses to the Times her mind-blowing wish to hold V-Day's 10th anniversary party at the Katrina-ravaged Superdome.)

The schedule for the arts festival, which kicked off Monday night, includes what sound like interesting panel discussions about "Women and Media Responsibility" and "Women in Conflict Zones." But they're all in the shadow of the "marquee" (i.e., celebrity-larded -- because the only thing better than a vagina is a famous vagina) events, like a reading of Eve Ensler's play "Necessary Targets" by Kathy Bates, Jane Fonda and Kerry Washington. Or the screening of Ensler's movie "What I Want My Words to Do to You" (a title that, I regret to say, prompts too many punch lines from which to choose). There are Q and A's with Ensler and introductions by Ensler. She is also listed as one of the many writers to contribute to the barfy-sounding "A Memory, a Monologue, a Rant and a Prayer: Writers on Violence Against Women and Girls."

In addition to the Ensler-ific egocentrism and her organization's incessant, grating reduction of women to their inner and outer lips, it's really all the wowie-zowie hym-en-ysticism -- the memories, the monologues, the ranting, the praying, the voices lifted in vulva-loving song -- that makes Ensler events so easy to resent, even while we applaud the ideas and intent behind them.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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