Eve Ensler says it’s time to do something dramatic to end violence against women and girls.
“Something that will actually indicate the size and magnitude and centrality of this issue,” the award-winning Vagina Monologues playwright and activist says.
And in the coming year leading up to the 15th anniversary of V-Day, a global movement that raises money and awareness to stop the violence through benefit productions of The Vagina Monologues and other works, Ensler, during a Valentine’s Day conference call, said everyone—women and men—needs to spread the word of the One Billion Rising campaign.
“The UN says that one out of three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in their lifetime,” Ensler says, meaning 1 billion women will suffer a violent attack. “That’s just insane . . . Today, we’re putting out a call, an invitation, a challenge, for the 1 billion women and all the people who love them to rise up next February 14 , to strike, to leave their jobs, to leave their workplaces, to leave their homes, and gather with the people they choose to gather . . . and with the music they plan to play, and to dance.”
Ensler says she recently returned from Congo, where she helped celebrate the first graduating class from City of Joy, a program that helps heal women through therapy and support in areas including the arts, literacy, agriculture and self-defense.
“When I was there and I witnessed this first graduating class and I saw . . . this just amazing transformation of their pain to power and resiliency, I realized that now is the time to call forth the tribes and say, let's invite every woman survivor on the planet to go on strike and to escalate our commitment and see that this is not a cultural phenomenon, it’s a patriarchal phenomenon, and that we’re uniting across borders and across countries and we can do something significant to change it,” she says.
During its 14 years, V-Day has raised more than $85 million for groups serving survivors and striving to end violence, with grassroots activists working to change laws, fund rape crisis centers and help keep the doors of domestic violence shelters open. The One Billion Rising campaign will be launched at more than 5,800 colleges and community events worldwide.
Ensler acknowledges that these are difficult times.
“On one hand, we are having victories and we are moving forward, and we are changing laws and women are breaking their silence,” she says, adding that events are taking place in “places that we never would have dreamed people were talking about vaginas or uttering the word or talking about their sexuality or their rights. But at the same time, with the incredible economic situations in the world and the injustices in the world and global warming, which is leading to fires and droughts and floodings, which leads to people becoming impoverished, we’re seeing an escalation of violence.”
The reaction to the strike and dance idea has already been “fantastic,” Ensler says.
“I think the idea of dance speaks to people because I think dancing is a way of taking up space and expressing what’s going on in your body and not being afraid of who you are and where you are and allowing yourself to express both your joy and your outrage,” she says.
And there’s good reason to be outraged, Ensler adds.
“I think the level of violence towards women in America is out of control, and it doesn’t matter if it’s digital assault, or what’s going on with bullying, what’s going on with the horrible thing of boys putting out naked pictures of girls,” she says. “It’s just rampant and I think we have not reached this tipping point. The image I have is, we have the window ajar, but we haven’t gotten our whole body through. So that, a) it hasn’t become a central issue, it hasn’t become as significant as AIDS or poverty or global warming; and b) we’re seeing how it can be pushed back so easily because enough of us isn’t through that window yet.” Ensler says this action is an attempt to say, yes, we are committed to going the distance on stopping the violence.