Eve Ensler is probably best known for her creation and performance of The Vagina Monologues, an in-depth examination and celebration of the vagina ranging in topic from hair, to orgasm to the rape camps of Bosnia. The concept began after listening to a female friend express negative feelings about her own vagina. She went on to ask other women about their feelings and proceeded to interview over 200 women of various ages, races and professions. The Vagina Monologues was born and it received critical acclaim winning an Obie Award and demand repeat performances.
One of the surprising things Ensler encountered were the many obstacles just to keep the word vagina in the title. Then came the problem of how to advertise since many publications and television stations would not permit the word to be printed or voiced. It strikes a particular irony that the word itself is so taboo and yet after every performance in cities across the country Ensler was bombarded with women who thanked her or wanted to share a personal story. She realized by the sheer numbers of women who approached her with confessions regarding sexual abuse, rape and physical violence that she had to do something to make a difference. She realized that nothing was more important to her than stopping the violence towards women. As quoted in an article on iVillage.co.uk, When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet. You force what is meant to be open, trusting, nurturing, creative and alive to be bent, infertile and broken. Ensler met with many feminists to discuss what can be done to make a difference and the end result was V-Day, a campaign to end the violence against women celebrated on Valentines Day. They realized that V stands not only for vagina, Valentine and violence, but most importantly victory.
On February 14, 1998 the first V-Day was born. At the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City twenty five hundred guests attended the event and watched a celebrity packed cast, including Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close, Margaret Cho, Rosie Perez and many more, perform the Vagina Monologues where they were able to raise over $100,000.
V-Day is now celebrated at hundreds of college campuses where
students and faculty direct and perform The Vagina Monologues. All the performances
raise consciousness and a portion of the money goes to support local organizations
focused on stopping the violence towards women.
The V-Day campaign travels across the globe, supporting organizations such as RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, even prior to the regime change and helped them educate women and girls, document illegal executions and build up the womens movement (Ensler was one of the first to support RAWA and to bring national attention to the organization and the atrocities imposed upon women by the Taliban). The performances around the world and the dedication of Ensler have slowly brought about changes, such as saving young girls in Kenya from female genital mutilation and helping them get an education.
Ensler is tireless in her campaign to end the violence towards women. The origins of this desire can be found in her own scarred past, dealing with physical and sexual abuse by her father at an early age. Though her initial instinct was to self-medicate to drown out her suffering, she realized that was not the answer and turned to writing plays for the theater. She began with a play about abolishing nuclear energy and also started her activist career by working for Chelsea Against Nuclear Destruction United, where she learned about grass-roots organizing. Despite that most people associate her with The Vagina Monologues and V-Day, her work has certainly expanded beyond that. She has also written a play called Necessary Targets, which resulted from a trip to Bosnia where she interviewed women and shared not just in their pain and suffering, but also their community, love and humanity. She also spent four months interviewing women in fourteen different countries to find out why they fix, mutilate and transform parts of their bodies to fit in with a cultural ideal. The outcome of which is her soon to be released play and book titled The Good Body.
Eve Ensler is evidence that one person can bring about positive changes. She has dedicated her live to spreading the message that violence towards women, no matter where they live or who they are, must end. And she is sharing it with the world - a truly inspirational woman working for women.
|© Melt Magazine 2003|