What Makes Eve Ensler Ill: Cancer or the Congo?

I just found out that Eve Ensler has uterine cancer. Her prognosis, she reports, is good, but uterine cancer is nothing to fool around with. If caught early, 5-year survival rates can be as high as 96%. Ensler does not share at which stage her cancer was detected. At any rate, she has been through hell physically for the past few months. But, she insists, it is nothing compared to the hell she goes through every time she hears of the latest atrocities being committed in the Congo.

In her article, which appeared in several newspapers simultaneously, she writes:

The stories of continued rapes, machete killings, grotesque mutilations, outright murdering of human rights activists – these images and events create nausea and weakness much worse than chemo or antibiotics or pain meds ever could. But even harder to deal with, in the weakened state that I have been in, is knowing that despite the ongoing horrific atrocities that have taken the lives of more than 6 million people and left more than 500,000 women and girls raped and tortured, the international power elite appear to be doing nothing.

She describes all the attempts she and her foundation, V-Day, have made to interest world leaders in the plight of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. When she appeals to Michelle Obama (through a high-end official), she is told that “femicide was not her ‘brand.’ Mrs. Obama was focusing on childhood obesity.” (Ensler’s reaction? “It surprised me that a woman with her capabilities lacked ambidextrous skills.”)

I realize that the U.S., or any one entity, for that matter, can’t solve all the world’s problems. But does that mean that we should ignore them? Women and children are the real victims of war. But the revenge-rapes and brutal massacres, not to mention being left without husbands and fathers, are largely written off as “collateral damage.” The death of soldiers is tragic enough, but women and children don’t even have any means of defending themselves.

If the Congo were in our own back yard, we might be moved to do something about the conditions there. But because it is half a world away, we  feel that we can put it out of our minds. But Eve Ensler, even though you might think she has more important things to worry about, can’t put it out of hers.

For more background on the situation in the DRC, read Ensler’s article from a year ago, “An apathetic, greedy west has abandoned war-torn Congo.”

What Have We Done to Mother Earth?

Mother Earth used to symbolize the power of nature. Early civilizations were careful not to piss her off. Now she is a caricature, rarely referred to except in cartoons and commercials. Even on Earth Day we don’t mention Mother Earth anymore.

That could partly be because motherhood in general doesn’t inspire the awe that it used to. Even before people understood the mechanics of reproduction, they recognized that mothers had something special going on. Life burst forth from females; men weren’t seen as contributing to that process. And over time, men became jealous of the power that women had and sought to control it. Enter patriarchy.

If men hadn’t decided that they had dominion over everything, we wouldn’t be in the mess environmentally that we are in today. The ancients paid close attention to what made nature work and they followed rules that protected it and enabled it to be more productive. But as man became more sophisticated, he began to think that he could bend nature to his will. He stopped worshiping fertility goddesses. He turned his back on Mother Earth, or Mother Nature (the word for nature comes from the Latin, natura, which means “birth” or “character”).

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Tuesday Tidbits

Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

Modern-day Lysistrata? Kenyan women urged to withhold sex for a week to protest political infighting: CNN, BBC

Abortion doctor’s killer, Scott Roeder, receives life sentence including 50 years without parole: Yahoo News Also, possible effects of Roeder’s sentence: Salon Broadsheet

Portrait of Cambodian feminist Mu Sochua: New York Times

Critique of Daily Beast’s “Women in the World” summit that was held March 12-14 in New York City: AltMuslimah

Archdiocese of Baltimore sues city over crisis pregnancy center “truth-in-advertising” law: Feminist News

The Health Care Bill and women’s health: wins, losses and challenges: RH Reality Check

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Jane Addams: Woman For Her Time

It’s so easy to think of history as something stuffy and irrelevant.  This is nowhere more true than when we’re reading about people who lived and died before our lifetimes. But if these same people were somehow transported into today’s reality, we would see more clearly how much influence they had in their own time.

Jane Addams is one of those people. She was born in 1860 and died in 1935. If she had been born a hundred years later she would be considered a Third Wave feminist. But she was much more than that. She started the settlement house movement* here in America.  Besides her charitable work, she became a mover and shaker in politics. She was the first vice president of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association,  a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She organized the Women’s Peace Party and the International Congress of Women. She was the first woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

With her accomplishments, if she were alive today, she would be more influential than all the present-day Third Wave feminists put together. She would be known internationally. And she would only be 50 years old. Her first book, Twenty Years at Hull House, was published exactly one hundred years ago this year and became a bestseller.

We still have the problems she worked so hard to combat: unemployment, lack of medical care and education for the poor, unfair and unsafe labor practices, discrimination against women, African-Americans and immigrants, and last but not least, war. But, unlike most of us, she would be doing something about them. About all of them.

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