Here are part 1 and part 2. The last part of the interview with the author of 'The Vagina Monologues' for ELLE UK will be posted tomorrow.
PART 3."What is this psychopath going to do to us next?'"
Emma Watson: I have another question, from Marzie, who said, "We seem to be moving in reverse at present in the U.S., with respect both to societal equality and women's reproductive choices.
The Vagina Monologues is more relevant than ever. What are your thoughts about art and culture and how they should try and help hold the ground for women's rights?"
Eve Ensler: That's a great question. I think art is everything. I think culture is where things change in us deeply. But right now, I think that people are very traumatised. They are very scared.
Having grown up in a house with a perpetrator who was violent every day and terrorising every day, I feel like that this country is suddenly very much like the house and the family I grew up in.
Every day we are glued to our phones, glued to our television; "What is this psychopath going to do next? How will he embarrass us? Who will he bully or hurt or humiliate today? It's so easy to get locked into a syndrome where the perpetrator is ruling your life.
That's where art comes in. This artistic uprising we had the other night in Washington Square park: there was poetry, there was dance, there was song, there was spoken word; and people left feeling so inspired and so energised. We have to get ourselves out of this syndrome of trauma and being re-traumatised. Art releases this energy. It exposes us to wonder again, and magic again, and ambiguity – all the things we need to really keep going and fighting and resisting in these times.
Emma Watson: Resisting and fighting a system – the burnout rate is high.
Eve Ensler: One of the reasons I love 'One Billion Rising' so much is when you look around the world, 200 countries, millions of people in all these little towns. 131 cities in Germany, 22 states in India, all over the U.K. and all over Poland are dancing! When you watch people dancing what you see is rage, joy, ecstasy, connection, being in your body, having your energy, connecting to your community, laughing and loving. It's everything. People need to dance.
I'd say dance at least twice a day. That's how to get your energy up and how you keep you revolutionary spirit going. It's Emma Goldman who said, "Any revolution where I can't dance is not my revolution." I think that's the revolution we want.
Emma Watson: I love that. I have another question for you from Shana who would like to know: "You describe in the monologues how some women felt uncomfortable talking about vaginas. Do you think women are more comfortable talking about vaginas now than when you interviewed women for The Vagina Monologues?
Do you think there will come a time when vaginas won't be taboo any more? Can you imagine the day will come when it's not, do you think it exists?"
Eve Ensler: I would have thought that after twenty years my play would be out-dated, and as sad as I would have been about that, I would have been actually delighted. But sadly it's not out-dated.
Emma Watson: Exactly. It's more relevant than ever.
Eve Ensler: There are eight hundred productions happening this month around the world. What I think is that more women are talking about their vaginas. More women look at themselves, more women know where their clitoris is, more women love their vaginas, more women have agency over their vaginas and can tell a partner: "This feels good" or "This doesn't feel good." I think when I was younger, I really believed things would change much easier and faster. What you realise at my age is that it's a long, long struggle.
There is a beautiful expression in Nicaragua: "struggle is the highest form of song". I love that. We are in the struggle. It's like a river. Once you step into it you become the river. It's not, you go out and click on a couple of charities that you believe in, march in the Women's March, and you're done. Struggle becomes your life, transforming a paradigm that is based on domination into a paradigm of co-operation. Fighting for the liberation of women, of people of color, of indigenous people, of lgbtq communities. Fighting to protect immigrants and assuring the safety of refugees. Using every power you have to reimagine neo liberal capitalism so that the majority of people on this earth are not starving or sold as objects or dying from diseases or without education.
Devoting your every waking moment to exploring how we can reverse climate change. Imagining a world where women are free and safe and have agency over their bodies and decisions and then doing the one thing you can do to make that happen. No success or fame or money will ever give you the satisfaction of being in the struggle.
Emma Watson: That's so good to hear. I think in what is a very highly saturated time, with self help culture, there's another big book that comes out on the shelves that promises "If you follow these steps then you'll be happy and satisfied," and that's the goal. If you're not achieving happiness and a deep sense of peace, then you are failing in some way. It's wonderful to actually hear that part of succeeding in life is being part of the struggle.
Eve Ensler: Success itself doesn't give you happiness. It's what you do with your success that gives you happiness. The illusion of capitalism is that if you get enough things, enough money, enough fame, enough power, if you can become a celebrity then you're going to be happy.
I think what you have got to ask yourself is, what is happiness? To me, happiness is being at the City of Joy in Bukavu and watching young women who have been horribly violated, arriving in pain and depression and after six months leaving healed, educated, energized, becoming leaders, and knowing I played a small part in that. That is the greatest happiness.