Eve Ensler, the Feminist Revolutionary has been fighting for women’s rights for more than a decade now. Her inimitable passion to oppose the violence against women and girls pervades the world. With One Billion Rising for Justice, the movement that she started to stop violence against women and girls, this Tony Award-winning playwright (“The Vagina Monologues”) and founder of V-Day almost stole the heart of Respect Women’s founders. It was then that they thought of interviewing her! In conversation with Eve Ensler, our Feminist inspiration:
Q1. One Billion Rising, what made you start with this event?
Eve Ensler: V-Day as a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls was founded in 1998. Since then we’ve raised over $125 million; educated millions about the issue of violence against women and the efforts to end it; crafted international educational, media and PSA campaigns; reopened shelters; and funded over 13,000 community-based anti-violence programs and safe houses in Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt, and Iraq.
However even still the UN statistic is that 1 in 3 women on this planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s one billion women and girls. One Billion Rising began as a call to action based on this staggering statistic. We believed that something widespread and dramatic needed to be done to raise the world’s consciousness about this issue, and to show what one billion actually looks like. So in 2013 we put the invitation out to women and girls and the men and boys who love them to strike, dance, and rise in their communities on February 14th, 2013 and show the world what can happen when one billion people work together to end violence. One Billion Rising was a resounding success, one billion people danced, coalitions came together that have never come together before, women came into their bodies, their sexuality, the streets, millions of women reclaimed public space.
Q2. How did you spread information about the event and how did people come up for support?
Eve: V-Day leveraged the strength of our over 16-year activist network to mobilize a billion people worldwide, inspiring women and men in 207 countries to come together and express their outrage. It was envisioned and carried out collectively by over 40 global coordinators around the world. These long-time V-Day activists spread the word about the campaign, engaged local grassroots groups and members of civil society, as well as their local and national governments.
Q3. Valentine’s Day, i.e. 14th February seems to be a unique day to celebrate One Billion Rising. What was in your mind while you chose this Day for OBR?
Eve: V-Day was founded on Valentines Day in 1998 and for over 16 years thousands of V-Day events have taken place all over the world on this day to raise funds and awareness for local organizations (as chosen by the activists on the ground) that work to end violence against women and girls. One Billion Rising continues this tradition of bringing attention to the issue of violence against women on this day.
Q4. The agenda of One Billion Rising is to ‘rise’ above all forms of violence; to dance, and to celebrate. We would like to know, what is the significance of Dance in overcoming the violence that women have gone through?
Eve: Dance is the vehicle through which we reclaim our bodies. It is the literal site of both violence and of healing. It is also a powerful organizing and creative force; it brings people together organically and spontaneously. It’s contagious, free, dangerous, can’t be controlled by corporations. It can be done anywhere and everywhere.
Q5. You started a Noble cause with your charitable organization, V-Day, which raised money for running educational projects and re-opening refuges and houses. Don’t you think activities like these should be focused more on, rather than spending on the V-Day Campaigns every year on 14th February worldwide?
Eve: On V-Day thousands of students and activists put on performances of The Vagina Monologues and other plays in thousands of places all over the world, These events raise consciousness, break taboos and raise money for existing groups who work to end violence against women and girls. V-Day is not a charity. We are a movement made up of grassroots activists who determine within their own communities what actions and focuses are most needed. On February 14, every local group decides for itself what issues and projects it wants to focus on, and uses the momentum and exposure of the international movement to push it forward. So the projects that you’ve listed – education, refuge, safe houses – all receive the most attention on February 14 through V-Day and One Billion Rising.
Q6. You have been an inspiration to many people. How do manage handling audiences when you visit different countries?
Eve: In my experience audiences do not need to be “handled.” People everywhere need to be listened to and care for and loved. I think we all often feel isolated and left out and why I love being in this movement is that it gives everyone an energetic home in which they feel supported and empowered to be themselves. V-Day and One Billion Rising does not belong to one person or group of people, it belongs to everyone.
everywhere so no matter where I go or who I talk to, we’re connected.
Q8. Do you believe Feminists are anti-men? Are you anti-men? Do you have any message for people who think Feminists are anti-men?
Eve: I am not anti-men and feminists are not anti-men. In fact quite the opposite I believe that men are an integral part of feminism and absolutely necessary in this movement to end violence against women. I think anyone who embraces feminism understands that it benefits men too; we’re working to liberate everyone from the constraints and violence of patriarchy. This means collectively dismantling institutional and social sexism, and not alienating any specific gender or individual person.
Q9. Any Message for other Feminists reading this?
Eve: Don’t be talked out of anything that feels true to you and spend a lot of time laughing.