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I’ve been sitting on this review for quite a bit of time, struggling to contextualize my feelings that should not be so disparate, but are in fact incredibly contradictory. The truth is that I have struggled with Eve Ensler’s, In The Body Of The World because it is a difficult read for someone who has experienced invasive medical procedures. Her descriptive and painfully emotional passages are detailed so intimately that it feels like reading her private diary. My own experiences with the illness and invasive surgeries made reading the book an overwhelming struggle for me too. Even though reading the book was incredibly quick, I took more than a few weeks following my finishing the last page to allow my personal connection to Ensler’s experiences settle. My goal was to parse her story and narrative away from the trauma of the women in Congo that she was trying to work out and write in the midst of her health crisis. Her descriptive and painfully emotional passages are detailed so intimately that it feels like reading her private diary.
My own experience with similar illnesses and invasive surgeries made reading the book an overwhelming emotional experience for me too. I took a few weeks following finishing the last page to let my personal connection to Ensler’s narrative to settle. My goal was to parse her story and narrative away from the trauma of the women in Congo that she was trying to work out and write in the midst of her own health crisis. During my own past health crises, much of what Eve describes feels so intimately true – as though she were embodying my own traumas and able to shout out loud the veracity of the fear, the foolishness, the reality of what I had gone through in her storytelling. But the truth is that Eve cannot speak truth to my own expereinces, as similar as they were, because I was prepared for much of the invasiveness, the intrusions on my privacy and bodily integrity – I had already had children, and each by emergency ceserean. I can assure Ms. Ensler that the loss of privacy and personal autonomy is completely destroyed and driven out of the ob/gyn delivery room. So that the horror of sharing intimate functions with family and strangers alike is forever lost following speedy and harrowing baby deliveries and never to be recaptured again in subsequent hospital stays.
So I began to wonder at the women in the Congo. Would they know about this book? Would Eve’s conflation of her health crisis to their brutalizations be translated for them into a language that they could understand, read, hear? And that is the point at which the book started to fall apart for me. No matter the connection I initially beleived I had with the text, the realization that Ensler’s healthcare expereinces were vastly diffferent and kind of insulting to see splayed out as they were grossly enlarged to match the trauma and terror that Congolese women have expereinced following brutal rapes and forible childbirth with little or no goodlooking to care for their every needs just made me feel kind of gross about the whole project. And just when I thought I was a lone angry shewolf ready to prey on Ensler, the Twitterverse responded to this work as well. It seems that many young feminists found the work to be lacking in global theory and offensively uppermiddleclasswhiteprivilege in it’s nature. I cannot disagree. Yet I am left wondering, where does Eve go with this all this worldy knowlege and lacking perspective? How CAN she reconcile what she sees and hears and knows about the world without a strong foundation of -isms work behind her? I suppose it is her answer to the world, that women and girls should rise up and dance in joy (One Billion Rising), rather than do the hard work of studying, understanding, doing what is needed to make real change in the world. Ms. Ensler has a rare gift, she can get all kinds of projects published. I do hope that her future endeavors are less about herself and more about the resilience and fortitude of the women she has the privilege to meet around the world. We were first introduced to her gift in the Vagina Monologues, and though they now seem troubled and similarly naive, they were once radical and engaging to read and share. Would that Enlser’s future projects have that same force; unfortunately this one did not.