The idea of a “good body” was dissected in the tent on Stokes Lawn Friday afternoon during a performance of The Good Body, an Arts Fest event jointly directed by the Boston College Dramatics Society and the Women’s Center. The Good Body, written by Eve Ensler—also the author of the Vagina Monologues—addresses the pressure all women feel to change the way they look in order to be accepted by society.
The play opens with a monologue by Ensler herself, portrayed by Holly-Anne Grell, MCAS ’21. She explains that since she was a little girl, definitions of what it means to be “good” have changed drastically. What hasn’t changed, however, is the expectation that all women should be “good,” a feat her “less-than-flat, post-40s stomach” makes difficult to achieve.
While Ensler remains the central focus of The Good Body, the play takes a broader approach to the issue of negative body image, highlighting how the problem is pervasive across different cultures and backgrounds. Over the course of her journey to reach self-acceptance, Eve encounters a bevy of woman who all have struggled with how to inhabit their own body. Bernice (Monica Orona, MCAS ’21), a teenage fat camp attendee, lamented how much harder overweight women had to work to keep their men. Carmen (Elena Akins, MCAS ’19), a Puerto Rican woman from Brooklyn, blames her critical mother for her body insecurity and laments that she’d died before she was able to “earn” her affection. Even Nina (Elyse Gaertner, MCAS ’21), a thin Italian woman whose body Ensler initially envied, asserts that she hated her breasts, and the only way she could overcome this self-loathing and achieve freedom was through reduction surgery. Told in a number of moving monologues, these scenes enraptured the audience, revealing how body shame transcends cultural boundaries to become something more.
While many of the scenarios came across as hilariously ludicrous—such as in the case of Carol (Cassandra Pearson, MCAS ’20) a woman who pursued vaginoplasty as a “gift” to her husband Harry—they still rang true to the way women scrutinize and ultimately reject their own body, as evidenced by the audience’s affirmative snapping. But even this highlights the irony of recognizing the foolishness of others’ issues with their body while not being able to recognize the issue in oneself.
One of the most pivotal scenes of the play sees Ensler talking to Leah (Mariam Ahmed, MCAS ’19), an African woman she meets while traveling the continent with her husband. When confiding in Leah that she doesn’t know how to inhabit her body because she feels insecure about her stomach, Leah puts her self-doubt into perspective.
“Do you say that tree isn’t pretty cause it doesn’t look like that [other] tree?” Leah asserts, “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.”
While young girls are taught to hate their bodies from an early age, The Good Body flips this notion on its head, revealing how absurd the women’s obsession with “fixing” her figure is. The performance culminates with all of the actresses coming together for a moving final scene, driving home the assertion that there is not one true “good body” but that all bodies are inherently good—whatever shape they take.
Featured Image by Kaylie Ramirez / Heights Editor