March 29, 2017

Emma Watson interviews Eve Ensler - Part 1

Emma interviewed the author of 'The Vagina Monologues' for ELLE UK. This is the first part of the interview. There are four of them and the second one will be posted tomorrow.

PART 1. 'A wild vagina journey.'

In this first part, Emma and Eve talk about the difficulties of bringing The Vagina Monologues to publication and the activism it helped create.

Emma Watson: Hello lovely Eve, how are you?

Eve Ensler: You know, this is One Billion Rising season, so it's been crazy.

Emma Watson: Ok, so I've written out my questions for you because I'm nerdy like that.

Eve Ensler: I do love your book club, I think it's amazing.

Emma Watson: It's my favourite project, I just love it, it's so cool. Here's where I'll start: I went on holiday last week and I read Insecure At Last, which I hadn't read before, which I just loved. Hats off to you, it's so brave to make your personal political. Last year I also read In the Body Of The World, and then we've obviously been doing The Vagina Monologues. Do you have a favourite of your pieces of work?

Eve Ensler: No. They're all so different, and it depends – people always used to ask me about The Vagina Monologues, "what's your favourite monologue?" and it's such a cruel question, like choosing one woman over another woman. I think sometimes you have days when you're more drawn towards one book or one monologue than you are to others.

Emma Watson: Absolutely - it's speaking to you at a different time. The book had a bumpy road to publication, with one publisher deciding they didn't want to publish it after all. Can you tell me what that experience was like?

Eve Ensler: Oh yeah, it was wild. First of all, no one wanted to touch it. Then we finally we got a publisher that was very gung-ho and I was really excited. But as we were getting closer to publication, they got cold feet. The publisher called me up and he said: "We really want you to change the title." And I knew they didn't want to publish the book. I remember going into this room and looking at this guy and saying: "This is a crossroads, and your decision not to publish this is about your character, your integrity. YOU HAVE TO LIVE WITH THAT, NOT ME." So luckily, I went and sold the book somewhere else. It was incredible to have a publisher pull out the rug from underneath you at the moment of publication. It was pretty horrific.

Emma Watson: That's the kind of the critical moment when you really want and need someone to believe in you and back you. How did you just believe in yourself, and the book, so much?

Eve Ensler: It was all about the women. The Vagina Monologues is a fictional piece, but it's based on real interviews with women. I was carrying their stories; I was carrying their hearts and very real experiences. So it wasn't about me.

Emma Watson: One hundred percent! Was it difficult to go on to write other plays and books when you were still involved in the phenomenon that The Vagina Monologues became?

Eve Ensler: In some ways it consumed my life. A really wise producer said to me: "This is your blessing and your curse. Because you're going to compare every play you write after this to it, and it will be disappointing." But honestly, I feel that to have had such a phenomenon in my life, which brought me and connected me to women all around the world, allowed us to be build and be part of these unbelievable movements - 'V Day' and 'One Billion Rising'. My gratitude is so immense for this wild vagina journey.

Emma Watson: Awesome. 'V Day' has achieved so much, and done so many different things, is there but what would you say you are most proud of, that has come out of 'V Day?'

Eve Ensler: Well, where I've been going recently, there are young women who I call 'Vagina Insurgents'. Women who have done The Vagina Monologues (cut) who are just showing up everywhere, right?

Emma Watson: Yeah!

Eve Ensler: I was doing an interview recently with a woman journalist who had been in The Vagina Monologues. I was at a school and a woman who was a teacher, had been in The Vagina Monologues. They are everywhere. It is so moving to see twenty years later, so many women coming up to me saying that The Vagina Monologues was the moment in their lives when they came into their activism, when they found their voice. And to think there's a world of 'Vagina Insurgents' out there who are now activists, social workers, teachers, lawyers, running for political office-- that is thrilling.

I think the other thing I am most proud of is that at the very beginning, we made a decision that every production would have a woman of colour in the cast. It was actually in my contract and the producer David Stone totally supported this idea. Then Lisa Gay Hamilton and Rosie Perez did an all women of colour production in Harlem and I think the combination really allowed women of colour to not only be front and centre in performing the piece, but directing, producing and bringing it to their communities. Ten years ago I spent time with transgender women interviewing them and writing a new piece based on those interviews which is now part of the show. They did the first all Transwomen production of The Vagina Monologues and it was very powerful and at the time, ground breaking.

I feel proud of the diversity. I feel proud of every woman who's put the play on for the first time in their community and taken a huge risk.

Emma Watson: I love that idea of having an activist spine and the strengthening of it, that's brilliant. Do you think that the word vagina is still hard for people to say in 2017? Over the years, have you noticed moments in time when you feel like people are getting more comfortable saying it, and then we pull back again, and we move forward?

Eve Ensler: Well, when I started The Vagina Monologues, no one could say the word vagina. They did a ten-minute CNN piece on the play and they never mentioned the word.

Emma Watson: Hang on - it was essentially considered a swear word?

Eve Ensler: Yes, you could say penis on television but you couldn't say vagina.

Emma Watson: Wow.

Eve Ensler: To see how much it's become part of the discourse now is pretty incredible. You can't turn on anything without somebody talking about vaginas. We have definitely made strides forward, but it seems to me it's always one step forward two steps back, because patriarchy is the most persistent, stubborn virus. We are still searching for political and spiritual antibodies to fight this massive infection. Then perhaps we will be able to wipe it out for good.


RT said...

We have been waiting for this on Goodreads did not disappoint. Amazing the controversy the title still causes.

Anonymous said...

I did not like the book; the vagina belongs to a person with a consciousness, conscience.

Anonymous said...

"Patriarchy is the most persistent, stubborn virus."

Agreed, but if only people created awareness in places where it is needed the most; Middle East, and Asian countries! Sigh...

Anonymous said...

British actress Emma Thompson has said she never moved to Los Angeles because she felt she was deemed "too fat" when she visited.

^ Emma should comment on this article. But of course she won't. It would have happened to her as well I'm sure.

RT said...

I think Emma Thompson is perfectly capable of making the point. Emma with others of the cast were present at the event where Emma Thompson made those comments.

Emma Watson has always kept herself fit but sure she will have had the same body issues as any woman. Physical appearance still the main feature in how women are judged.

Anonymous said...

I found the book to be a navel meditation and narzistic. You can focus to much on yourself. I thought the book unhealthy, and I am a woman. I put it away.

Anonymous said...

"I think Emma Thompson is perfectly capable of making the point."

Sorry hmmm what is Emma Watson campaigning for again?? Just goes to show it's all staged because never slate Hollywood eh?

Anonymous said...

In what movie is she playing. There are more competent people campaigning for women's rights and they are willing to go into the danger areas. Emma is just using feminism to boost her popularity. What she needs is a good film.

Anonymous said...

^ correct. What she has done has been little and uninspiring anyway.

Looks like her film career has stalled so she is getting into TV now.

Anonymous said...

+ looks like Anne Hathaway has been brought in to slowly phase Emma out

RT said...

There is an article in the London Evening standard. Carry Mulligan talking about lack of female writers and directors. She says she has not looked into it like Emma Watson has direct quote.

You are right Anon she does not slate people or institutions she does something about the problems. First research to avoid uniformed comment. Then take action.

One of the things she stands for is equality like respecting Emma Thompsons right to her own opinion and to take her own stand. Sometimes the best support is silent agreement.

Anonymous said...

I feel if emma watson and carey mulligan feel that there are not enough writers and directors in hollywood, let them break the mold. The best directors are male. I am a feminist, but fact is fact: no one beats peter jackson, the nolan brothers, steven spielberg and other male actors. I think if you show the talent in presenting a good story, anyone will be acknowledged. But you know, it takes talent.

RT said...

Inequality on the treatment of women effects there opportunities. Hence talent not the only factor.

To suggests men are more talented in movie industry even before Emma's recent success is to deny the facts let alone feminist principal.

Emma and other women are doing lot to correct this not helped by attitudes like yours Anon.

Anonymous said...

There are highly talented directors with high-grossing film. They truly have talent. Just to mention a few:
(Ava Du Nernay- Selma; patty jenkins- Monster; Sofia Coppola- Lost in Translation; Anne Fletcher- The Proposal; Nancy Meyers- the Parent Trap, the Intern; Nora Ehpram- Sleepless in Seattle; Samantha Taylor Johnson- Nowhere Boy, 50 shades...; Jane Campton- the piano)
best female screenwriters that have respect and fortune in hollywood because of talent.
(Diablo Coody- Rikki and the Flash; Sucida Coxan- the danish girl; karen Croner- Girl soldier; Shawna Cross- If I stay; Jane Goldman- Hotel for Peculiar Children... and more...)
These are all female directors and screenwriters. Look at J. K. Rowland. No male other than tolkien post-mortem has enjoyed such a wide range of success and respect for her work. Show me a writer in our time male- that has been acknowledged and respected like Rowland.
I still believe that at the end everything begins and exits in talent. Let Emma and Carey write that great screenplay and direct that film. That is what is disappointing sometimes with celebrities, they have these hooting plans and complaints and haven't created th the product for what they are complaining.
It is not a matter of helping women: I am a feminist, but true feminists want women to acknowledged for true talents not petty complaints when you already have millions to spend.

RT said...

Women achieved all that in spite of the sexism they deal with daily. If you wish to be a feminist great more the better but please acknowledge the problem and respect women and there achievement.

Emma and Carey are at the height of there careers. Regardless of there age they know there industry well their comments on it state have merit and should also be respected.

Anonymous said...

I think to just shoot blindly initiating calling boo men- sexism makes feminism just a complaining platform. I say it again, let them achieve. A male actor complained that he got less money than Jennifer Lawrence. It can go both ways. The man that complained is not as good of an actor as jennifer Lawrence, and she had the lead.
I respect women for their achievement; I gave a whole list of female screenwriters and directors. The names, their scripts and directed films speak for themselves. Hollywood is tough, but you are rewarded for your achievements.

RT said...

You miss the point Anon. Hollywood's toughness is not the same for men and women. You assume an equal playing field all getting what they do proportional to their efforts.

It is not the case prejudice plays a role in all aspects. Women in Hollywood have to work much harder than the men to achieve the same result. Calling out standing up against this sexism is not complaining it takes courage and commitment.

Anonymous said...

Please give an example where it is not the same that does not have to do with ability. There are some actors and actresses that cost more because of their high-standards of ability, be it male or female. A little actress, who is developing her skills cannot expect to receive the same pay as a Brad Pitt or a Sandra Bullock, a Tom Hanks or a Myal Streep, an oscar winning Brie Larson over any male or female actress, who has not reached that pinnacle of success. Lastly, the pay and opportunities hinge on ability and talent. Emma does not yet have the flexibility in her acting skills to edge up to any of the mentioned actors.She rode the HP train, and that was a lucky break for a child star to ride the largest grossing series for 10 years, but her acting skills have not developed that much since then. She was good as a kid, and in some things she is still good, but she does not have a wide acting range as yet. She needs to work on herself. Jennifer Lawrence is already asked to participate in films, but she has demonstrated the acting chops.

Anonymous said...

In Hollywood no one gets paid for their efforts. If that were so, every jack and jill could go up the hill to be in a film. Efforts is never enough in any field. Everyone wants to see solid achievements regardless if from men or women. There are female entrepeteurs out there that are making a difference.

RT said...

Emma auditioned 9 times for Hermione.
She submitted an audio tape of her singing to Disney for BATB like every other actress. She is just really good at her job.

She is however not alone in her reservation about the treatment of women in Hollywood. The film industry like almost all others is not immune to institutional sexism.