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What I Want My Words to Do to You

shainarobin's picture

Throughout my time reading "Eva's Man", I was constantly reminded of a documentary I watched a few years ago. The film, titled "What I Want My Words To Do To You", followed Eve Ensler (of "The Vagina Monologues" fame) as she conducted writing workshops with the women inmates of New York's Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. What struck me about the film at the time was the immense guilt and confusion felt by the women who had been convicted for committing, mainly murderous, crimes. With the direction of journaling, many women brought to the surface their side of the story and the history leading up to their decisions (or maybe better worded, actions).

Through her questions and directions, Eve prompted many women to think about how they were feeling and thinking in the moments before and after they committed their crimes. Many of the women interviewed explained their stories in front of the camera, and the more they talked, the more I realized that anyone could have done what they did. Most of the crimes weren't premeditated, they were committed out of blind rage, often times after years of constant oppression and abuse. Even the ones that were thought out weren't done because those women were "evil". No matter how much the rest of society is taught to differentiate itself from prison inmates with terms like good and evil; or white and black; or even straight and gay; "What I Want My Words To Do To You" breaks all of those constructions down. What you're given instead are women trying to piece together what happened either vocally or through the use of journals. These journal entries are then read and performed by famous actresses, people we see everyday, to further get the point across that these crimes could have been committed by anyone, even you.

I suppose that's one of the goals of the film. Here are these women who are giving you their stories to hear, listen, experience, and live. In the process they are humanized by their breaking of silence, making viewers ache and empathize with their pain and guilt. This film, a film I was somehow coerced into watching with my dad one evening after school, has left an impact on me that cannot be reversed and will never be forgotten. These women's stories continue to haunt me, knowing now that many may never leave, that many will not be giving a chance to truly live their lives for the first time, and that one of those women could be me.

It's interesting how by breaking their silence both vocally and through the use of words, many if not most of the women were able to finally figure out or explain in their own way why they did what they did, showing us their vulnerability, and putting us in their places. It prompts the question: "Can you be so sure that you wouldn't have done the same thing?" This is why while reading "Eva's Man", I couldn't automatically differentiate myself from her by saying that I would never commit the crime that she did. Maybe because of our different backgrounds and histories, I could say that it would be unlikely, but even then is that still really true? Do our lifetime experiences and pasts dictate how we will react in future, undetermined moments? Maybe, but maybe not.

I strongly recommend watching "What I Want My Words To Do To You" if you've never seen it before. If not for the insight or experience that it will give you, then for a new perspective into Eva's life and actions.

Link to trailer: