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.”

NY Times Questions Eve Ensler

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.)

Continue reading “NY Times Questions Eve Ensler”

What Is V-Day?

V-Day is a global movement that supports anti-violence organizations throughout the world, helping them to continue and expand their core work on the ground, while drawing public attention to the larger fight to stop worldwide violence (including rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual slavery) against women and girls. V-Day exists for no other reason than to stop violence against women. In ten years, the V-Day movement has raised over $70 million. V-Day was named one of Worth magazine’s “100 Best Charities” in 2001 and Marie Claire’s “Top Ten Charities” in 2006.

Poster for Nepal's First V-Day

V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces innovative gatherings, films and campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women. Some of the highlights include the December 2003 V-Day delegation trip to Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan; the Afghan Women’s Summit; the V-Day documentary Until the Violence Stops, which premiered at Sundance in 2004; the March for the Missing and Murdered Women of Juarez; the March 2004 delegation to India; the Stop Rape Contest, the Indian Country Project, Love Your Tree, and the V-Day: UNTIL THE VIOLENCE STOPS festivals. In 2008, V-Day celebrated its 10-year anniversary with V TO THE TENTH at the New Orleans Arena and Louisiana Superdome, featuring two days of speakers, art, performances, and wellness programs which were attended by over 30,000 women and men and raised over $700,000 for local efforts in New Orleans to end violence against women and girls.

In 2008, more than 4000 V-Day benefit events – produced by local volunteer activists and performed in theaters, community centers, houses of worship, and college campuses – took place around the world, educating millions of people about the reality of violence against women and girls and raising funds for local groups within their communities.

To find V-Day events in your community, go here.

For more information about V-Day, go here.

By the way, the ‘V’ in V-Day stands for Victory, Valentine and Vagina!