The Magazine

Hurricane Eve Hits New Orleans

Celebrating a decade of those revolting monologues.

May 5, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 32 • By MATT LABASH
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Most of the New Orleans-homecoming crowd, though, seemed to disappear after the opening ceremonies, understandably preferring a day at the spa to sitting through panel discussions on "connections and parallels between our treatment of the earth and our treatment of women's bodies," or lectures by feminist legal theoreticians with enticing titles like "On Intersectionality."

The crowd that replaced them was of a more traditional cast. There were the sassy college girls, with subtle T-shirt messages such as "I love boobs," all full of vim and feeling naughty after having performed Ensler's racier monologues, like "Reclaiming C--," back home in front of God and Daddy and the Boise State student union. Then there were the lesbians, lots and lots of lesbians, with their hair long in back and short and spikey upfront, making them look like Billy Ray Cyrus's butch sister or perhaps a keytar player from an '80s New Wave band.

There was even a smattering of men. You'd see them walking mousily, trying to look unthreatening and inconspicuous. They reminded me of the guys I'd see in college who'd wear Riot Grrrl T-shirts to Take Back the Night rallies, hoping to get lucky with some emotionally souped-up coed who'd just finished bullhorning the quad that all men are rapists. (Ensler, for her part, doesn't maintain that all men are rapists, merely that "too many men are rapists.")

Making my way around the dome, I visited all the Super Love substations. There was the Intentions Yurt, an orange tent which smelled yurt-ish, for lack of a better word. Inside was a box in which women scribbled their intentions. My intention was to get a stiff drink to help me get through all their intentions, such as "I intend to laugh more" or "I intend to work everyday to remove my carbon footprint." The front flap of the yurt was an embroidered copy of Ensler's new, New Orleans-themed monologue which posits that "New Orleans is the vagina of America": "We use her to entertain us and excite us, then jealous of her power and embarrassed by our awe, we make her a whore." No word yet if Ray Nagin, America's most "vagina-friendly mayor," has recommended this to his tourism bureau.

Then it was off to Donna Karan's Urban Zen lounge, where a fleet of volunteer masseuses, aromatherapists, and yoga instructors kneaded and pulled and pressed the Vagina Warriors, as attendees were called. In one particularly intense session, I witnessed a young woman lying on her back, crying, while one of the aromatherapists lay on top of her, whispering in her ear while touching her softly.

Assuming there was some tragic story of sexual or physical abuse behind the tears, I later asked the aromatherapist what I'd just seen. Linda Zuver, who's with Young Living Essential Oils, told me that in fact it wasn't abuse, it was "ummm, an abortion." The young woman had recently had one, and the guilt from it was making her experience neck pain. But some supportive words, a sympathetic touch, and some cooling peppermint oil, and voilà: "Now her neck feels great!"

Next, I was off to the Red Tent, a storytelling enclosure which sat to the right of the main stage. It was elaborately decorated with overstuffed pillows and crystals and Hindu and Buddhist statuary all intended to evoke the comforting "sacred space" of a womb so that women could "tell their stories." Storytelling took about 80 minutes per session, since as one volunteer told me "women have a lot to say." I wasn't permitted into most of these sessions, since, I was told, "your testosterone would change the energy of the room."

But I was admitted to the LesBiGayTrans session headed by the actress Jennifer Beals and her castmates from the lipstick-lesbian Showtime series The L Word. As I attempted to enter, I was stopped and asked if I was, in fact, a lesbian. "No," I said. "But I have a few Sarah McLachlan records."

"That's good enough," said the volunteer.

I was the only man in the tent, though I can't be certain a few of the participants, after finishing their hormonal regimens, won't be joining me. Otherwise, it was a pleasant enough way to kill 80 minutes. For years, I nursed a serious crush on Beals, after she played a Pittsburgh welder/stripper in 1983's Flashdance. She looked resplendent this afternoon, sitting barefoot on a stool, wearing a peasant skirt and white shirt knotted at the belly.