by Tory Butterworth
Sunday I went to see Eve Ensler's play, "The Good Body," at City Theatre. Eve is the author of, "The Vagina Monologues," and this play had the same range of dramatic emotion her last one did: much humor, but also pain, anger, passion, redemption, you name it.
Apparently, the inspiration for the play was Eve's obsession with the size of her post-40 stomach. As you might expect, this conflicted with her identity as an activist and feminist. So she wrote a play.
After Sunday's matinee, the YWCA Women's Counseling center organized a community dialogue, "Women's Bodies: War Zone or Sacred Ground?" I was excited how articulate the audience was, how accepting of the basic premise Eve Ensler summarized for the program. "Be bold and LOVE YOUR BODY. STOP FIXING IT. It was never broken."
Sunday's discussion brought to mind a host of experiences from my own life. As a teenage, I was angry about how my friends couldn't love their bodies. (I wasn't so hot at it, myself, but I could still be outraged.) I discovered that some woman bond through criticizing their bodies, and if I didn't accept that basic premise, I was left out of the club.
The play also brought to mind the far-out therapeutic training I took in my twenties in (of course) California. It was based on the work of Wilhelm Reich, who was trained by Freud and was far ahead of his time in many ways. He believed that all bodies were pleasurable. His idea was that society's basic purpose was to repress pleasure. Presumably, if everyone was feeling too good, we wouldn't get enough work done. By labeling bodies as "good" or "bad" we reduce pleasure. Then, we can only enjoy "good" bodies, and we criticize or cover up "bad" ones.
I'm not sure I believe society's function is to reduce pleasure. Still, I remember sitting on a nude beach in California, watching the bodies there with a fresh eye. Flab, wrinkles, scars are all very interesting and, yes, enjoyable when you get rid of the mindset of comparing them to fashion magazines. Think of them as a photo or an abstract work of art. I came home and quickly forgot this lesson, but when I remind myself, I notice how enjoyable people watching becomes.
In the play, a 74-year-old African Masai woman urges Eve to see herself as a tree. "Look at that tree. Do you say that tree isn't pretty because it doesn't look like that other trees? We're all trees. You're a tree. I'm a tree. You've got to love your body, Eve. You've got to love your tree."
I'd like to love my tree. I'm still working on it. But I'm getting better every year.
"The Good Body," will be playing at Pittsburgh City Theatre until October 29th. I recommend it for anyone who doesn't love their body and would like an alternative point of view.