Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: October 2013
It started with a press conference. There were about eight of us there, fidgeting in folding chairs in the lobby of the Laxson Auditorium, waiting for Eve Ensler to show up. While I sat in the plastic-backed chair, I tried I gather my thoughts. What do you ask a woman who is as accomplished as Ensler? A Tony award-winning playwright, performer, and activist, Ensler is best known for writing the extremely popular Vagina Monologues. A (male) representative from the local radio station made the mistake of referring to the Vagina Monologues as “the monologues,” and we all got to wait on the edge of our seats while she made him say “vagina” about four times in a row. It was magical.
I vaguely remember asking her if she was optimistic about the direction that the women’s movement seems to be heading, and she said a lot of very eloquent and poetic things, but I had to refer to the video I took to be sure as my heartbeat was thundering in my ears too loudly for me to really hear her.
The main event didn’t disappoint, with Ensler touching on a wide variety of topics like the time she spent in the Congo getting her newest project, City of Joy, up and running, her bout with cancer, and her tireless work on the global event, V-Day (for which Chico has raised over $94,000 for). She also read from her newest book, a biography titled In The Body Of The World. Both poignant and hilarious, my personal favorite bit chronicled her time spent in the hospital after getting a cancerous tumor removed, “Waiting to Fart”. I didn’t think a speech given by an activist would have so much material about farting. I mean, some. Just not so much.
For those who might not be aware, V-Day stages large-scale benefits and produces campaigns to educate and change social attitudes towards violence against women. In discussing her thoughts during the inception of V-Day, she recalled being on one of her many travels across the world, ending up that night on a tiny island with some of the locals who were staging a community-wide dance. As she watched everyone twirling around like whirling dervishes, stomping feet and waving their arms about she had a thought: “what would it be like if a billion women and the men who loved them all rose up and danced? From that came One Billion Rising, a new addition to the V-Day phenomenon where on February 14, women and men are encouraged to walk out of their schools, jobs, offices and homes and dance in celebration of women. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women on the earth will be raped or beaten at some point in their lives. This number equates to one billion women, hence the title, One Billion Rising. As one would imagine, Ensler is incredibly well spoken, humble and brilliant. If the chance arises to see her in the future, I’d highly recommend it.