Monday, September 14, 2009

The Good Body - review

Over the weekend I did blissfully next to nothing, other than sleeping and eating. It was grand. I also read a play called "The Good Body" by Eve Ensler, who you may have heard of because she wrote a little something called "The Vagina Monologues". (Which is, in my opinion, fully worthy of all the hype it recieves. If you have not read or seen it, you should.)
The play found a way to make me feel good about myself, if only in knowing that even Eve Ensler, famous feminist playwrite and activist, also has body image issues she just can't shake.
Unfortunately, I was hoping for something a little more powerful.
She explores the issue by travelling the world, and writing monologues as everyone from Helen Gurley Brown to an African villager.
Ensler suggests that most women in the world are more obsessed with their often distorted perception of one small part of their body than they are with any other aspect of their lives. For that matter, they are more fixated on that one body part than they are on world hunger, peace, or homelessness. They are more fixated on that one body part than they are on acheiving health, happiness or success. If they could have one wish, regardless of age, nationality, race, sex, economic class or social standing, it is to lose weight.
We fixate on our stomaches, our boobs, our legs, our noses. If we choose to mutilate ourselves and "fix" this perfectly functional body part to make it more how we'd imagine we'd like it to be, we then fixate on a new part of our bodies to dislike. We inundate ourselves with images of "good" bodies, and then punish ourselves for not looking like that, even though our concious minds are fully aware that those images are faked and 'shopped to look the way they do. Even the most radical feminist of us self-punishes this way. No wonder we aren't leading corporations and political parties as often as we should. We're too busy dieting.
In the preface Eve writes, "...when one out of three women in the world will be beaten or raped in her lifetime, why write a play about my stomach?" Eve then answers herself, "...because my stomach is one thing I feel I have control over, or maybe because I have hoped that my stomach is something I could get control over."
Control. Women are obsessed with control. Maybe it is because we have felt out of control for so many generations. A lack of choice makes you feel controlled. We are obsessed with controling our food. Our bodies. Eating disorders are the worst side of this, extreme dieting the middle of the road, diet soda the everyday. It is distorted that we believe we are in control by doing this. Then we wish for greater self-control. More discipline. If only.
We've been told we're equals, but perhaps because this isn't really true, and we don't have enough control over any other aspect of our lives, we obsess over the wrong things - things that don't need controlling. Our bodies are fine as they were made.
The play will help you to feel idiotic for wasting any of your precious mental resources on such a dalliance. It does it as well as the Beauty Myth, which is similar in message, though stronger in delivery.
It helps to comisserate with other women, to feel a part of something, to relate. Where the play falls flat is in the stereotypes - the "skinny bitch" makes a few to many appearances while the negative self talk gets tiring and a bit depressing. The author never resolves this and never finds a way out; "'s what I think I've learned so far: In order to be good, I've got to be a smiling psychopath, deprived of pretzels, deeply involved with a Nazi trainer, fortunately numb from the botulinism, white vanilla fat sucked out with rods, and my pussy tightened."

Certainly cathartic, the play would be enjoyable to see in order to have the feelings of a shared experience. Standing alone, it is missing any reasonable solutions for overcoming the very problems it highlights.

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