Final part of Emma's interview with the author of 'The Vagina Monologues' for ELLE UK. Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3.
PART 4. "The next stage of the women's uprising is upon us."
Emma Watson: I have a question from another one of my Book Club members, Sierra, who says: "As an intersectional feminist, how do you balance retaking ownership and pride in vaginas whilst still being an ally for trans women? Not a critique, just something I've been wondering recently due to the backlash after some of the Women's March defined their womanhood by their vagina."
Eve Ensler: This is what I am going to say: it's not either/or.
I know many women, for example, transgender women, who were very happy in the march and see themselves as very connected to those Pussy hats.
I know other transgender women who feel like being vagina-focused is exclusionary. But what I would say this: there are three billion women in the world who have vaginas. One out of three of them are being raped or battered.
I think we have to talk about vaginas now.
We have a president who is a confessed sexual assaulter and has openly bragged that he grabs women's pussies without their consent. We have many people in the White House and the government who want to prevent and push back women's reproductive rights or cut programs that end violence against women– these things are connected to our vaginas.
That is not to say that I don't stand in total solidarity with transgender women and do all I can to support their rights and getting their voices, experiences and stories into the world. I am very proud to have been a producer on Her Story, a trangendered TV series, written and directed and performed by transwomen.
I was proud to help get the play Transcripts, a play written and performed by Transwomen produced in the U.S. As I said earlier it's not either/or. It's more about how do we have each other's backs in a deeper more inclusive, conscious way.
Emma Watson: What do you say to women that normalise comments like Trump's? To the people who say, "Oh come on, get real, all guys speak like this, this is locker room talk, let's be real, this is how the world is," and they don't see it as truly threatening?
Eve Ensler: Look, we are all under the hood of patriarchy. We are all contained in this bubble. Everybody is at a different stage of consciousness.
If you had talked to me forty years ago, when I made jokes about my father beating me, and I made fun of all the terrible sexual experiences I had; I didn't have the consciousness, nor did I have the self-esteem, nor did I have a community, nor did I have a political framework, nor did I have the literature, nor did I have anything – and I certainly didn't have a way to address the pain that was inside of me.
To say that what Donald Trump is doing is horrible, you have to own that what happened to you is horrible. That's a very painful and difficult thing to do if you don't have the support or the community, if you don't have your sisters around you. I think often women internalise this hatefulness of patriarchy and end up protecting because it's too terrible to confront the depth of our own rage, depth of our own sorrow and the depth of our own hurt. You join it rather than feeling it.
Emma Watson: One last question from the book club.
Mystique asks: "How was your book received in various countries? Do you find that, broadly speaking, some countries are more accepting while others are more resistant? Do you think this is indicative of the way those same countries seem to feel about women in your own experiences?"
Eve Ensler: I've never gone anywhere where they welcomed vaginas at first. It always begins with hysteria and resistance. I would say that sitting in the audience in Manila or sitting in the audience in Croatia, or sitting in the audience anywhere, they laugh at the same places, they cry at the same places. Every place resists that play at the beginning and after time, after brave women keep going and insisting their bodies and beings have the right to exist, the community changes and the cultural gate keepers relax and the play is accepted.
Emma Watson: That is really, truly, profound to me.
Eve Ensler: Me too.
Emma Watson: When I put my speech together and when I was coming to all these realisations myself, I realised that no country in the world, whatever they say about what's better here or it's worse here, or we are terrible in Afghanistan, or whatever else, is that no country has achieved gender equality. No country is even close. No one's done it. No one!
Eve Ensler: The one thing you can count on across the world is that patriarchy reigns at this point in time - and that women are seen as second class citizens who have little to no rights or agency over their bodies and lives.
It doesn't matter what country you're in, except for maybe Sweden, I think Sweden's pretty impressive. Iceland is getting there.
But its also true that in every single country there are brave women bringing in The Vagina Monologues and tons of people desperately seeking liberation. Why has the play been going on for twenty years? Because many of us know deep down that when women are free, when women of colour are free, that freedom will catalyse the energy capable of remaking the world. I believe something is happening now. I think women - particularly looking at the March, looking at the demonstrations, this new resistance being led by women - I think the next stage of the women's uprising is upon us.
Emma Watson: This is my last question but, firstly, I want to say thank you so much! These answers, of course, have been beautiful. So, the single most important act of resistance. If you could choose just one thing that women do right now that you genuinely believe to be the most revolutionary and powerful, the single, biggest act of resistance, what would it be? I want people to walk away with "if you can hold onto this."
Eve Ensler: Trust your experience. Trust what you know and act on it. Don't WAIT for permission.
Emma Watson: That's so cool. That was such a big thing when I was younger. I was always waiting for someone to tell me it was okay for me to do something. Trust your experience, act on them, and don't wait to anyone to give you permission.
Eve Ensler: No one's going to give you permission to oust them or resist them. AND No ones in charge but the people pretending to be. Listen to your body. Follow your instincts. Fight for our Mother Earth and each other. If your privileged, share your platforms and serve those without privilege more deeply. Listen better. Dance. Rage. Have your anger. Laugh a lot. Have wild ecstatic sex. Spend more time imagining. Bow down to trees. And don't be embarrassed to love. Bigger.