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Eve Ensler in "The Wall Street Journal" on Sarah Palin, Abuse, and Her New Book

Originally published in:
The Wall Street Journal

By Kamau High

Eve Ensler is famous for talking about vaginas. Specifically talking about the ways that they can be loved, abused and misunderstood in her her play "The Vagina Monologues" which has been performed around the world.

Her most recent book, "I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World," was released earlier this year and today MTV is launching an advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of teenage abuse that is based on parts of the book. The tireless activist, who is currently battling uterine cancer, is also prepping an off-Broadway play based on the book that she hopes to launch in the Fall.

She took time out from rehearsals of the play to talk to Speakeasy about stopping teenage abuse, Sarah Palin, and writing about boys.

The Wall Street Journal: Tell me about what you're doing with MTV.

Eve Ensler: For a long time we at V Day [Ensler's anti-violence organization] have been trying to find a way to do something with MTV and its younger audience. When "Emotional Creature" came out it seemed like the perfect time to do something. Writers used the text of the book to bring out core issues teens are dealing with such as teen dating , sexting and abuse but doing it in a way that isn't finger wagging.

Do you watch a lot of MTV?

I don't really watch television. Up until recently, because I've been recovering from cancer, I've been on the road. In the last month I've been watching more programming than usual.

In my experience, having done "Emotional Creatures", there is a lot of abuse in the teen age community particularly towards girls. You have girls giving blow jobs in homeroom who don't even know it's sex.

Wait, aren't homerooms kind of small for that? Wouldn't people stare?

That's the thing. People are staring. There are these strange movements backwards as we move forwards where bodies have become commodified.

Some of the videos and shows on MTV and its many properties don't always portray women in a positive light. How do you reconcile working with them?

Because I want to change that. You can say 'Oh, they're doing horrible things' and just walk away from that. Or you can do something. The idea is to get different messages into a culture that is becoming increasingly horrible to women.

Most of your work has been focused on girls and women. Have you ever thought of doing something on boys and men?

In the last few years I've begun to talk to boys. There's an incredible pressure on boys over what it means to be a boy. It's gotten me interested in boys and men and I'm pondering doing something on them. I've been on the other side of the equation for so long, with the impact of violence on women and girls. What I'm interested in is the why. What's going on and what's the story that's lead us here? To keep being angry and protesting and resisting when we haven't joined with men seems kind of ludicrous.

You've spent time in some of the worst places on earth and heard horrifying tales of violence. What kind of effect does that have on you?

There are a couple of effects. One is that I think it shatters me the kind of violence being done to women. The shattering opened something in me where I came to understand violence against women and girls is the most important thing I could be working on. If you don't honor, respect and cherish women you don't honor, respect and cherish life itself. I don't think my sickness [uterine cancer] is disassociated from spending time listening to those stories but at the same time it's inspired and motivated me to change things. I wake up every morning saying 'Do I really have problem?" when I think about what women are going through in the Congo or Haiti or Afghanistan.

You were criticized by some for lambasting Sarah Palin's positions, particularly on global warming. What was the fall out?

I got more letters from my piece on Sarah Palin than on anything I've ever written. At the time Palin was saying global warming doesn't exist and that creationism was real. I will have more to say about Sarah Palin in the future.