NY Times Questions Eve Ensler

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I have rarely encountered such an antagonistic interviewer as Deborah Solomon, whose interview with Eve Ensler was published on January 21st in the New York Times Magazine. The subject of the interview was Ensler’s new project and book, which is described as follows in an email I received from vday.org:

Eve’s newest work, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, will be released in book form by Villard/Random House tomorrow, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9! Made up of original monologues about and for girls from around the world, the book aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts, and curiosities.

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement, just as women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true. I Am an Emotional Creature is a new vehicle providing a platform for girls’ empowerment and activism.

Solomon emphasizes that the monologues were not written by the girls they aim to represent and challenges Ensler for presuming to represent them:

“Your new book, ‘I Am an Emotional Creature,’ is a collection of 30-plus fictional monologues in which you assume the confiding, often plaintive, voices of teenage girls — from a Chinese factory worker to a sex slave in Africa to a schoolgirl in suburban America bemoaning her lack of purple Ugg boots. Why do you see yourself as a spokeswoman for teenage girls?”

When Ensler answers, “I don’t feel like I’m a spokesperson at all for girls. I just feel like, O.K., in the way that ‘The Vagina Monologues’ was an attempt to communicate stories of women and their vaginas, this is an attempt to communicate the stories of girls on the planet right now,” Solomon responds, “That sounds so Girl-Scoutish.” Huh?

Solomon then asks Ensler if she sees the monologue “as an emblem of the times–everyone yakking, no one listening” and then questions whether or not the monologue is “a form of coercion or even abuse.”  Ensler answers that the monologue forces (hence the “coercion”) one to listen and allows the speaker to “take up space.”

When Ensler explains that the “V” in V-Day stands for ” vagina and victory-over-violence and Valentine’s Day,” Solomon interjects, “What about vulture?” (To which Ensler responds, “Vultures serve a positive function. They clean up the dead.” Good answer.)

The rest of the interview (which was condensed and edited for publication) goes like this:

V-Day, your foundation, has raised some $70 million since 1998, largely through benefit productions of “The Vagina Monologues.”
I don’t think of it as a foundation, but a movement. V-Day exists in 130 countries now. This year there will be about 5,000 performances in places from Paris to Brest, France, to Greece to Tanzania.

What is the played called in French?
“Les Monologues du Vagin.” In Italian, it’s “I Monologhi della Vagina.”

As a self-described activist (italics mine), you’ve made many visits to Congo.
On May 25, we’re opening the City of Joy, a facility for 90 women who are survivors of gender violence. It’s a small pastoral city in eastern Congo.

The City of Joy sounds like the name of a church.
The desire was to create a name that was not about women’s victimization, but about claiming their future. We’ll have a radio station (we hope). We’ll have a huge field that women will plant to grow their own crops; we’ll have therapy; we’ll have dance; we’ll have theater; and women will come for six months, everything paid.

How does a dance workshop help someone in the midst of a civil war?
Dance has a transformative effect on bodily trauma. When you’ve been raped, the trauma lodges itself in your being. Dance is a surefire way to release it.

You treat everything as a problem of self-esteem, as opposed to a complex set of political and economic problems.
The City of Joy is not going to end the war. But if enough leaders come out of it, maybe they’ll end the war.

Where are you from?
I was born in Manhattan and grew up in Scarsdale. Scarsdale didn’t work for me as a place at all.

Are you married?
No. I’m a nomad. I have a place in New York in the Flatiron District, and I have a place in Paris in Île Saint-Louis, and I spend a lot of time in Congo.

Do you ever yearn for security now that you’re 56?
Thank you for putting my age right out there! Security isn’t what I hunger for. I hunger for change. I hunger for connection. I hunger for good sex.

What if you just want somebody to help you find a ladder in the basement?
I don’t have a basement. And actually it turns out I’m fully capable of changing a light bulb all by myself.

Apparently Solomon is known for her “frank and sometimes acerbic tone.” Fine, but what about the readers who genuinely wanted to know something about the topic? Thanks for nothing, New York Times!

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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