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Vagina Monologues Author Eve Ensler Still Fighting And Writing To Empower Women

By Susan Campbell

April 26, 2012

Is there any one who hasn't heard of Eve Ensler and her breakaway book/play/empowerment piece, "The Vagina Monologues?"

Since its '96 Greenwich Village premiere, the play has been performed around the world. Ensler moved from that searing play to short stories, more plays, books, and tireless activism for women and girls everywhere. She's raised funds against and awareness about violence against women, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haiti to South Dakota, to Egypt and Iraq.

Ensler's 2010 short story collection, "I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World," is Hartford Public Library's selected book this year for its annual One Book One Hartford reading campaign. The piece is a series of fictional monologues from girls around the world that explore inter- and independence. With a writer like Ensler, who speaks in fully-formed paragraphs, it's best just to back away and let her speak. So, a Q&A, with one of America's best known writer/activists, who's coming to the Hartford area in May:

Q: "Emotional Creature" includes stories about girls from Bulgaria, Egypt, Palestine. Israel. How did you choose which stories to include?

A: I chose them based on what was universal. We did a whole bunch of workshops reading them around the world and in South Africa, and I was shocked at how many young people do not feel they can turn to parents and older people for help. What a huge communication barrier there is, and how judged people feel.

Q: "Emotional Creatures" could be like a lively prequel to "Vagina Monologues."

A: I think I'm always, on some level, writing about women's empowerment, how women come into their bodies, their voice, their narratives. Very often, unforunately, girls are so objectified and commodified that their sexuality is determined by the outside world.

Q: My favorite piece was "Free Barbie," a story about a 13-year-old girl named Kwai Yong, whose factory job is to place the head on Barbie dolls, and as she does so, she places empowering thoughts within those heads with the hope that Barbie will spread a revolution.

A: Barbie, to me, epitomizes what the whole book's about. Barbie is so absolutely the metaphor of what happens to girls. When you think about Barbie and who makes Barbie, these girls are starving, and living horrible lives making this doll that's going to create this horrible life.

Q: You don't live in Connecticut, but you're here frequently. Or is it that "Vagina Monologues" is performed here so often?

A: I've been very connected to Connecticut. I've done my two of my plays at Hartford Stage. And I am very moved that my book was picked for the library. That touched me in a very deep way. Connecticut must have lots of emotional creatures.

Q: Say you're running for president. What is your platform?

A: First of all, I'm not running for president. I think what happens is women and men with the best intentions go into politics, but then they become male-fied, patriarchy-fied, and before you know it, everything's motivated for moving one's self forward, and the things they know intellectually and in their gut are completely dismissed.

Q: All right. So much for the presidency. You're running for political office. Your platform?

A: People with money should be following and listening. They should be serving. In fact, I don't know that many rich people who are happy. I think what happens is you panic you're going to lose it, and you never feel like you have enough. The inequity on the planet is so shocking, and it's so out of odds with what should be. If we were connected to our feelings, we wouldn't be able to say it's OK that people are enslaved in a factory, that it's OK that people are begging on the streets, that it's OK that people are eating out of the garbage.

Q: Is there anything I didn't ask that you'd like to talk about?

A: On Feb. 14, 2013, we are calling on men and women to walk out of their jobs and find a group, find a church, find a crowd, and dance. We want to say the time has come to end the violence. The time has come for women to be free and safe.

You can hear Eve Ensler at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Hartford Public Library's downtown branch, 500 Main St. For more information, contact Mary Crean at mcrean@hplct.org or call 860-695-6360. You can also see Ensler at 7:30 p.m., also on May 6, at Cheney Hall in Manchester. A special reception precedes the program at 6. This second event is a collaboration between The Mark Twain House & Museum, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and the World Affairs Council. For tickets, call 860-647-9824 or visit cheneyhall.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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