A Conversation with Eve Ensler (Urban Zen)
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Being a part of the Urban Zen team is a gift, it really is. We work on initiatives that ignite passion, we collaborate with organizations that motivate, and we meet extraordinary people who fuel the soul. Just recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Eve Ensler - an individual for whom my normally verbacious self has no words. Eve was preparing for Viva Vevolution, happening tonight at the Urban Zen Center, when I was able to able to steal a few minutes of her time for a beautiful conversation.
ALLISON RAPSON: I am so, so happy to speak with you - thank you so much for creating time for this. On a personal note, speaking with you really does mean a lot to me. I am a big, big believer in the power of women and I believe in seeking out those mentors who are setting examples of how to be fearless and how to make a difference. You have always done this - for me and so many others. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.
EVE ENSLER: Oh, well, I am very happy to talk to you.
AR: So, the whole Urban Zen team is very excited that you are having your event with us and we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate you and your work. I thought we could begin by talking about why you chose Urban Zen as the space to hold Viva Vevolution.
EE: Well, I've known Donna for a long time and, as you know, she's on our board. I feel like we've been working together in various capacities over the years and we have had the opportunity to do many events at Urban Zen, so it feels like home. Viva Vevolution feels like a wild, necessary moment in our history and Urban Zen felt like the perfect place hold it.
AR: I would love to talk a little bit about women's empowerment and what that means to you. How were you able to cultivate such a ferocious passion within yourself, so much so that you've been able to let that passion bleed into so many other lives? Is there a way for you to encapsulate this?
EE: What I want to say is that I think we are past women's empowerment. What we need now is for women to take back the world. I think we just need to escalate where we are. Women need to rise up to what they know to be true in their bodies, their beings, their intuitions, their instincts. For fourteen years, through V-Day, we've been working to end the violence and I think what we've done is gotten people to take violence against women seriously, get it into the mainstream, into the discourse - but we haven't ended it.
The next stage is for women to really step up what they are willing to do, how far they are willing to go, which sacrifices they're willing to make, what they are willing to give up for peace. Women's bodies are still dominated, still commodified, still objectified. So, this occasion - Viva Vevolution - is, yes, a celebration of our victories, but also -- and more importantly--an event to call forth the next years that have to be more bold, more daring.
AR: When you say "more bold," "more daring," when you put out that challenge to women to step up and rise up, what does that look like to you?
EE: You know, immediately I think of the chambermaid in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn attack as an example. She came forward, she risked her job, she risked her standing, she risked her life to tell the truth. To me, she is a model of what all women have to be doing in their personal lives. We can't be going along with things to protect our status, our money, our jobs, our comfort. We have to be willing to give up something, to sacrifice something. The only way things can change is when people are bold enough to tell the truth. And, usually telling the truth involves loss in some way because the culture is often founded on lies.
If you look at France now -after this woman came forward to tell her story, many women came forward to tell their stories. This is a metaphor of what needs to happen.
AR: How would encourage an individual like myself - I am in my mid twenties, I'm an impassioned person, I envision for myself a life of giving back, of making a difference, of having a voice, of doing my part to champion a cause. But I'm at the inception point with many of these things. What can someone like me do now?
EE: There are so many things to do now. I feel like all we should be doing now are these things. It doesn't matter if it's fighting to protect the earth, for population control, or for women. Just look at any area of the earth right now - there is so much suffering. Basically, we have to transform that paradigm so that 95% percent of the people on this globe aren't starving while 5% have everything. If it speaks to you, you need to go and transform whatever "that" is for you.
AR: So, I know that Viva Vevolution is also a celebration of your birthday. I wondered if we could take a moment and just celebrate this last year of your life? Is there one important lesson that you've learned over the year that you could share with us?
EE: Well, I think there are many. I mean, I faced really horrible cancer and lived- which is the most beautiful gift in the whole word. You know, I just think that everything that happens to us has the potential to be our transformation. I think in this culture we are taught to seek out opportunities to win, instead of seeking out acts of transformation and difficult opportunities that bring you to your deepest self. What happened with me with cancer is that I realized that it was really hard and really scary, but it opened the door in my being to suffering in general. So, there isn't a person who is sick now that I don't feel connected to, there isn't a person who is weak that I don't feel connected to, there isn't a person who is poor that I don't feel connected to. I feel so grateful to cancer for doing this for me, you know? As hard as the struggle was, I can see that the whole process stripped away so much of me that didn't belong anymore. It liberated me from so many demands that were imprisoning me. I feel so much lighter now, so much more alive. I am happier now and I know it is because all of this suffering has brought me to what really matters.
AR: As you look out on this next year life, what is your vision?
EE: There are so many things! We are starting a theatrical production of I Am An Emotional Creature in South Africa in July and I am really excited about that. We have another play opening in October in California and I'm also really excited about that. V-day is thriving and growing. I'm working on another book, which I am completely jazzed about - I love it. I just feel like there are all of these really, really exciting projects that I am in the midst of. I am just so incredibly blessed to have this life, to continue the work that I get to do, to be alive!