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Questions for Eve Ensler: The V Generation (New York Times Magazine)


Originally published in:
The New York Times Magazine
01/24/2010

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/24/magazine/24FOB-Q4-t.html?scp=2&sq=eve%...

By DEBORAH SOLOMON

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?
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.

That sounds so Girl Scout-ish.
I never was a scout. But maybe we can start thinking about creating a new radical troop. Troop V-Girl.

Why do you think you favor the form of the monologue? Do you see it as an emblem of the times — everyone yakking, no one listening?
I feel that monologues come naturally to me. I think often women are not listened to, and the monologue forces you to listen.

In that case, do you think of the monologue as a form of coercion or even abuse?
No, I don’t mean force as in controlling someone. I think the monologue allows one to take up space.

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.”

What does the V in V-Day stand for?
For vagina and victory-over-violence and Valentine’s Day. A lot of beautiful words begin with V — voluptuous, vulva, volcanic, vulnerability.

What about vulture?
Vultures serve a positive function. They clean up the dead.

As a self-described activist, 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.

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.